2013 Sudirman Cup Update from Team USA
Here is a first-hand account of Team USA's progress at the 2013 Sudirman Cup in Kuala Lampur, Malaysia.
Opening day here at Putra Stadium pitted our
Team USA against Team Sweden. The Team USA Coaching staff of Andy Chong
(Singles), Rudy Gunawan (Doubles) and Don Chew had a good feeling that we would
do well in both doubles and the mixed.
The reason for the poorer outlook for the Men's singles is the potential
match-up between Sweden's number one Henri Hurskainen, a player who had beaten
Victor Axelson in last year's 2012 European Championships semi-final as well as
posted a win last year over our MS Sattawat Pongnairat. The women's singles was more of an unknown
quantity as we currently know little of the female singles players.
The Mixed double opened with some tentative
play by both teams as the cross drafts and lighting were unusually difficult in
the Putra Arena. Phillip Chew and Jamie
Subandhi entered play with some very steady net play but again took time to
adjust when defensive clears were called for and they found themselves behind
and lost the first game 16-21 against Amanda Hogstrom and Nico Ruponen. In the start of game 2, Phillip and Jamie
began attacking more effectively, driving service returns into the deep corners
and exacting short defensive lifts from their opponents. In the end, the balance of the attacking
points went the way of the Swede duo winning 21-17 in the second game.
As the Men's singles began, there was a minor
concern that Phillip would not be well rested before the start of the MD with
Halim Haryanto Ho but that wasn't the case as Sattawat Pongnairat put in a gut
wrenching 3-game performance against Gabrielle Ulldahl that included at least
10 points decided by the roll of the shuttle along the top of the net. Sattawat's
match was difficult to watch as the drama unfolded, 1) the questionable over
rule by the chair umpire and untimely loss of the Mixed doubles, 2) a major
opportunity to take the Men's singles with Ulldahl playing and not their
singles ace Hurskainen and take the tie to a 1-1 possibility and 3) the net
tape becoming a major match decider. Ulldahl and Pongnairat exchanged point for
point throughout ending with the advantage going to the Swede 21-16, 20-22, and
Next on court was the quick handed darting
play of Halim and Phillip. A definite edge-of-your seat nail-biting match that
had spectators counting the many different ways one could handle the racket to
produce misdirection and opponent pinning drives. The slashing net play and sneak attacks by
Phillip Chew proved a delicate point of balance that occasional misfired to
produce a highly charged MD tie that proved powered angle smashing attacks are
not the only route to dominating a point. The taller Swedes were at times
unable to touch, let alone return net drives. Ultimately, they had enough
consistent play to take the tie in three close games 24-22, 14-21, and 21-14.
This put Team USA in a bind for Group play as
they now had to beat either the next opponent Scotland or the Russians. Good news earlier in the day was that
Scotland dominated Russia 4-1 signaling the possibility of a good chance to
sneak in and steal a tie for Team USA.
All throughout the tie, the unexpected
opportunities and miscues prevailed. The
Women's Singles that was an unknown in the end surprised all and gave Team USA
welcome relief as solid and uplifting play by Iris Wang proved successful
against Swede Ellinor Widh 21-16, 21-12. To add more drama to an already loaded
evening, Paula Obanana and Eva Lee played a controlling first game but their
lead slipped away at 19-17 to lose 22-20. Experience and nerve was called upon
to take the next two games….and Paula and Eva finished the night in better form
21-15 and 21-6 albeit not as comfortable as desired. So Team Sweden Took the Tie 3-2.
Day 3 here at Putra Stadium pitted Team USA
against Team Scotland. Again the coaching staff of Andy Chong, Rudy Gunawan and
Don Chew had a good feeling that we would do well in both doubles and the
mixed. The selection for the WS tie was limited to Iris Wang and Jamie Subandi
as Karen Velez sustained a mild ankle sprain putting her on the non-playing
list for the tie. This was unfortunate as Karen had some success in a previous
3 game with Kristy Gilmour the Scottish #1 WS.
Resting during this match as well was Phillip Chew as he had put in
double duty for the Mixed and Men's Doubles the previous match.
The tie opened with dicey Mixed double play
by both teams as the cross drafts and lighting were unusually difficult in the
Putra Arena once again. Halim Haryanto and Jamie Subandhi entered play with
some very steady net play but were attacked frequently by Imogen Bankier and
Robert Blair. Game 2 showed Scottish attacks by Bankier, and this brought the
balance of the attacking points to the way of the Swede duo winning 21-17 in the second game.
Stepping up for Men's singles was Howard Shu
playing a well rounded all court game featuring a planned attacking style with
solid defense. The net did not play a major role in deciding this outcome but
the drift was felt even more strongly with wristy punch clears traveling a full
foot out on one side of the court and curving clears into the sideline by 8
inches. (This is reminiscent of the 2005 Arrowhead Stadium wind.) This was
evident as 3 USA players and even the Thai players the next court over
"whiffed and framed" a few smash and smash returns throughout the
Regardless, Howard led through the first half
of game one against the Scot Kieran Merrilees while both were rallying evenly
and attack opportunistically to get the feel of the hall. After the coaching
interval, Merrilees begins to sharply build an attack that turns the advantage
to Scotland, closing the game out at 21-16.
On the change of sides, Merrilees continues the pressure and Howard was
not able to find a successful counter game losing the second and closing the
match at 11-21.
In a deep hole of 0-2 to dig out of, Team USA
put the experience of Halim Haryanto Ho and Jimmy Pohan on to the floor.
Again a quick handed but also a quick witted
USA MD team took to the court and produced another nail biting match that saw
the Scots Robert Blair and Paul Van Rietvelde attempting to field the pinning
drive/smash combinations by Halim and Jimmy.
Team USA's high intensity and dominating style of point were present
through both first 3/4 of each game with leads of 4 points but the Scots found
their metal late in each of the two games and closed in on a win 21-18,
21-18. The rest of the tie was played in
a thoughtful subdued manner as thoughts moved to the Russian match the next
The Women's Singles brought Iris Wang to play
against Christy Gilmour who has been doing well in European play winning
singles 2012, the Polish and Swiss Internationals, and the Czech Open. A tall
order to face, Iris took Kristy on a few good tours of the court and even
played some quick smashing points and finished with a final score of 9-21 and
Team USA was not to leave the hall pointless,
Eva Lee and Paula O’banana finished strong with a straight-forward victory over
the Scottish pair of Kristy Gilmour and Caitlin Pringle 21-11, 21-11.
Day 4 at Putra Arena brought Phillip Chew and
Eva Lee together in their first tournament pairing. This combination produced a
very quick driving first game to play Nina Vislova and Andrej Ashmarin. The USA
pair swiftly advanced to a four point lead 11-7 at the interval but the lengthy
armed Vislova began a tight coverage of the net and left smaller targets in
play. The Russian's smothering coverage left small areas of the court to attack
and led to a well fought match ending in a 15-21, 16-21 defeat.
Entering now was Howard Shu in the Men's
singles against Anatoly Yartsev had a 3 inch advantage as well as a sharply
angled smash. Howard played to an early 5-9 deficit as Anatolly was parlaying
quickly angled smashes but as the coaching interval neared, he was only down
11-10. Trading points, Howard was only able to keep within striking range but
not able to close and lost the game 21-18. On the change of side he was only able to
manage 12 in the second game.
Phllip Chew and Sattawat Pongnairat set about
matching against the Russians Ivan Sozonov and Vladimir Ivanov in an extreme
angle smashfest that left the score with no doubt about who owned the court.
21-11 21-11, a Russian win. This was the
not an unexpected outcome as Ivanov was the 2012 US Open Men's Singles Champion
and is currently ranked #17 with fellow Russian Ivan Sozonov.
Jamie Subandhi was next to take on Ksenia
Polikarpova in a much needed point for Team USA. She opened the game with some
all court drop clear combinations to stretch the already lengthy Russian. Not
finding any real openings, she switched to a flatter driving game that gave her
a few more points but lost the first game 21-13. In the second game, she produced some guided
and patient shots into the corners to create wider attack alleys and angles for
her cut smash and drive smashes coming from a 4 point deficit at 12-16 to take
the game at 19-21. Hoping to continue her positive tactics, she got off to a
slow start and was behind 4 points at the interval. At this point and after a
few unlucky shuttles dropping onto the line she found it difficult to climb
back into the chase and lost in the third 21-13.
Not to be denied a point again the Russians,
the solid play by the veterans Paula Obanana and Eva Lee dominated the court
and closed the tie with a 21-12 and 21-18 win.
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