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Volkswagen Open Korea 2005: host title, worthwhile journey for Singapore

Friday 31 July

Volkswagen Open Korea 2005: host title, worthwhile journey for Singapore

Staged in Suncheon from Thursday 9th to Sunday 12th June 2005, the women’s singles event at the Volkswagen Open Korea progressed very much according to status, the top two seeds Singapore's Li Jiawei and Korea's Kim Kyungah, both reached the final.

En route Li Jiawei, the number one seed, had beaten Korea Republic’s Ko Eunjin, Japan 's Reiko Hiura, Singapore compatriot Wang Yuegu and the Korean player who had ousted China's Wang Nan at the Volkswagen 48th World Championships staged earlier in the year in Shanghai, Moon Hyunjung.

Similarly, Kim Kyungah had experienced few alarms. In the opening round she accounted for Japan's Sayaka Nogami, in round two Chinese Taipei's Huang I-Hwa. Later in the quarters, she beat another Japanese player in the guise of Sayaka Hirano and in the semis her compatriot, Kim Soong Sil, a young lady who was rather good against defence.

Kim Soong Sil had reached the penultimate stage by recording victories over three defensive players. In the opening round she had beaten the number three seed, Viktoria Pavlovich of Belarus in six games; moreover, she won with a quite awesome display of strong forehand attacking strokes. "I like playing against backspin players", said the twenty-four year old from Seoul. "People tell me I have a powerful forehand and that it's my best stroke."

They were quite right; she beat another defender, Singapore's Tan Paey Fern in round two and then overcame her club colleague, Kim Bokrae, in the quarters; another reason why she is good against defence, Kim Bokrae is a superb backspin player and the two practise together every day of the week!

However, in the semi-final the experience of Kim Kyungah told. She had competed in the latter stages of the Olympic Games and World Championships, whilst for Kim Soong Sil, her previous best internationally had been on the ITIF Pro Tour in 2001, at the Brazilian Open. On that occasion she lost in the quarter-finals of the women's Singles to Japan's An Konishi and reached the final of the women's doubles with Lee Hyangmi, losing to compatriots Lee Eunsil and Shin Soohee.

The final between Li Jiawei and Kim Kyungah was a nail-biting affair with the crowd thoroughly involved. The first four games were all close encounters with the Singapore player taking a three games to one lead; every point was hard fought, long rallies and perhaps the gruelling exchanges took their toll on Li Jiawei.

She lost the fifth and sixth games relatively comfortably and thus a decisive seventh was needed. In the seventh game Li Jia Wei led when the two changed ends at 5-4 but she never extended the advantage beyond one point with Kim Kyungah recovering to lead 9-7. Li Jiawei duly responded and levelled at 9-all; Kim Kyungah won the next point, again the number one seed brought matters back to parity but there was no further success for the Singapore player. Kim Kyungah won the next two points, she sank to her knees, the crowd stood in adulation; it had been a final worthy of the occasion, a splendid contest.

Disappointment for Singapore in the women's singles but not in the women's doubles, nor in the under 21 women's singles. The final of the women's doubles was in fact an all Singapore affair with the combination of an attacker, Zhang Xueling and a defender Tan Paey Fern proving successful against Sun Bei Bei and Wang Yue Gu.

Sun Bei Bei and Wang Yue Gu, both comfortable against defenders, beat Kim Bokrae and Kim Kyungah in the opening round, the duo that had come within a whisker of the bronze medal at the Athens Olympics. They continued their good form to overcome the Chinese Taipei duo of Lee I-Chen and Pan Li-Chen in the quarters before ousting the second seeds Chris Xu and Viktoria Pavlovich in the semis; once again the backspin play of the Singapore pair.

Runners up spot for Sun Beibei but in the under 21 women’s singles it was the top spot; she beat Chinese Taipei's Huang I-Hwa in straight games.

Thus, two gold and two silver for Singapore; it had proved a worthwhile journey.

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