Monday, April 30, 2012

2012 Peru International

After a month of training in Vancouver with the ClearOne Badminton Academy (COBA), we left Vancouver for Peru and flew through Houston, then Lima, spending pretty much the entire day traveling. We all flew United/Continental (Star Alliance partner), but unfortunately, it is very different than flying from Vancouver -> Toronto -> Lima, Peru via Air Canada. With Air Canada, the flight from Toronto to Lima is quite long, but you get your own personal entertainment system. We had minimal entertainment flying with United and the food was marginal at best. However, sometimes there is a significant price difference, as Air Canada probably charges an extra $100-200 more than United/Continental. However, if you want comfort or have the ability to upgrade to Executive First (Business Class) on Air Canada, it may be worth it.

We arrived in Lima and received transportation to our hotel in the Mira Flores area in Lima. The hotel was minimal, but we had air conditioning at the very least, which probably was a necessity with the hot weather in Lima. The next day was just a practice day, with Singles and Women's Doubles being played on Thursday. As the tournament had different levels of importance to different people, there were many mixed emotions at the tournament, as there were many upsets that occurred, which may have benefited some people, but also hampered the efforts of others. There were also a fair amount of athletes that didn't have any weight from the tournament for Olympic qualifications, including myself and Grace in the Mixed, but fortunately, we came out with a good result regardless. I will speak on some of my observations and my own experiences, but regarding some of the matches from this tournament, I will let you come to your own conclusions via Tournament Software.

Full Results: [2012 Peru International Challenge]

Mixed Doubles
The draw in the Mixed was quite small, with a couple of matches played on Thursday, while the Round of 16s and Quarterfinals were on Friday, Semifinals on Saturday, and Finals on Sunday morning. The seedings were quite spread out, with South Africa being seeded 2nd, and it extended quite low which can sometimes affect the draws in a tournament. Tony Gunawan/Eva Lee [USA] were an unseeded team which could have definitely taken out Grace and I or Derrick and Alex if we had to play in an earlier round. Fortunately, we were spread out a little better, so we could all at least wait until the Semifinals for one of the teams to meet. I think there is a ruling where countries with 2 seeds cannot be on the same side, so Derrick and I would probably never meet in the tournament if we were both seeded until the finals.

The rounds went fairly smoothly for most teams, although the South Africans lost to an American team, while Tony and Eva easily beat their 4th seeded opponents. The Semifinal match between us and Tony/Eva may have been our match of the year, although the Pan Am Games final would be a pretty close rival. It's quite intimidating to play Tony because he is a very experienced player. Generally, I don't mind playing the younger, more athletic players, but I have a lot of trouble playing against the smarter, experienced ones. I tend to second guess myself and get stuck in over-thinking things usually. This match really reminded me of the days in Calgary when we would sparr with Kim Dong Moon. He's another one of those smart, experienced players where I have to really pay attention to detail, remember any previous shot patterns I have used before, and be ready for shots to come back. Against Kim, it was a little easier at times because he was the one who taught me everything, but then again, when someone teaches you everything, you really have no trump cards. The difference with Tony though, is that he can sometimes come forward and pretty much hog the net, which he did at many times in our match. The match was very close especially at the end of the 3rd set, with it going into set points. The match could have definitely went either way, and much respect to our opponents for a thrilling match!

The finals was another match between Derrick and Alex, and by 'another', I mean this is the 4th final we've played each other this year! We played in the Guatemala International final, the Canadian International final, the Canadian National final, and now the Peru International final. The scores have been quite closer in our last 2 meetings, but we did a lot better this time by taking a quick first game. The second set was fairly close at the interval, but we were patient enough and it paid off in the end to take our 6th title Mixed title this season! What a great way to end our Olympic Qualification :)

XD QF: Toby NG/Grace GAO [CAN] vs. Willem VILJOEN/Annari VILJOEN [RSA]

XD SF: Toby NG/Grace GAO [CAN] vs. Tony GUNAWAN/Eva LEE [USA]
Full Match

XD F: Toby NG/Grace GAO [CAN] vs. Derrick NG/Alex BRUCE [CAN]
Full Match

Womens Singles
The surprise in this tournament was seeing Ai Goto [JAP] in the draw. However, the top 4 seeds pulled through, with the top 2 seeds also making it through to the final, with the top 2 seeds being Ai Goto and Canada's very own, Michelle Li. It was a very long final and I saw most of the match, but it was quite a spectacular final. The first game was quite interesting, with Michelle taking a very significant lead at the first interval (11-3 maybe?). After getting a couple more points, Goto started making her dramatic comeback, slowly creeping back, point by point. In the end, she was able to catch up and ended up winning the first set in set points. However, Michelle didn't give up and came back fighting in the 2nd set. After long hard rallies, she was able to maintain her attack and breakdown Goto's defense to take the 2nd set. The final set was more or less the full clash of styles: Goto's slower rallying and defensive play because of her height and reach disadvantage, against Michelle's faster paced rallying and offensive abilities. It was actually quite even for most of the beginning of the match, but after the interval, Goto made some unforced errors which Michelle capitalized on. With the little bit of added pressure from trying to catch up, Michelle kept up her offensive play and made the last few points to take the win, giving her the Women's Singles title and her best result so far! The win, unfortunately, did not have any effect on her Olympic qualification process... because she pretty much qualified for it already! :P

WS F: Michelle LI [CAN] vs. Ai GOTO [JPN]
Full Match

Mens Singles
With only the sole major upset in the Women's Singles being that Michelle beat Ai Goto, I suppose the rest of the upsets were saved for Men's Singles. Upsets were everywhere, with many players desperate to make points to qualify for the Olympic Games. However, ironically, the top 4 players of this tournament either aren't trying for the Olympics, or can only obtain a reserve list/wild card spot, which means they are actually still out of the preliminary qualifying list. Sattawat Pongnairat [USA] made an incredible upset by defeating Kevin Cordon [GUA], the top Men's Singles player in Pan America, to secure a spot in the semifinal before getting ousted by Osleni Guerrero [CUB], the dark horse of probably every tournament he plays, including his unseeded Silver Medal performance at the 2011 Pan American Games. On the other side of the draw, Kaveh Mehrabi [IRI] takes down the 2nd seeded Michael Lahnsteiner [AUT] to secure his spot against a former sparring partner of Lee Chong Wei in the semifinals. Tan Seang Chun [MAS] became the eventual winner of the tournament, as he seemingly effortlessly defeated many of his opponents this tournament without even dropping a set.

MS F: TAN Chun Seang [MAS] vs. Osleni GUERRERO [CUB]
Full Match

Mens Doubles
The draw for this event was quite simple, with Tony Gunawan/Howard Bach [USA] being the top seeds and also last year's winners, against Adrian Liu/Derrick Ng [CAN], being the second seeds and also last year's finalists. The 3/4 seeds were signifantly lower, and unfortunately the draw felt a little skewed towards the top 2 seeds, meaning that the opponents the 3/4 seeds faced had much easier matches, especially the team that came out to play Gunawan/Bach in the semifinals. Regardless, the top 2 seeds had little difficulties in their matches and met again to play a rematch of last year's Peru International. However, this year, the crowd was in for a surprise, as Adrian and Derrick stormed through the first set to win it 21-13. They continued the trend and took a 11-6 lead at the interval, but Gunawan/Bach weren't giving up just quite yet. As I witnessed, without even saying a word to each other, they slowly but surely changed their strategy and started pressuring the Canadians much more. Instead of their defensive game they played in the 1st set, they started challenging the net more and kept a drive game going a little longer, enough to slowly give them the attack. They came back and took the 2nd set 21-13, only losing 2 more points after the interval. The final set proved difficult for the Canadians, as they were unable to adapt and maintain the playing style they were playing in the 1st set. Derrick, also being in his 2nd final seemed a little taxed in the final set. The experience of the American duo came through, with them defeating our top Canadian MD team in the final set. Unfortunately, the USA team is the main team standing in the Canadian team's way to qualify for the Olympic Games as they have taken the Pan American continental spot.

MD R16: Toby NG/Howard SHU [CAN/USA] vs. Nyl YAKURA/Andrew LAU [CAN]
Full Match

MD QF: Tony GUNAWAN/Howard BACH [USA] vs. Toby NG/Howard SHU [CAN/USA]
Full Match

MD SF: Adrian LIU/Derrick NG [CAN] vs. Dorian JAMES/Willem VILJOEN [RSA]
G1 Post-Interval & G2

Tony GUNAWAN/Howard BACH [USA] vs. Adrian LIU/Derrick NG [CAN]
Full Match

Womens Doubles
The Women's Doubles is quite interesting, as the qualification process for this event for the Pan American spot has been the most competitive. Both USA and Canada have 2 teams each, trying to qualify for the Olympic spot, in addition to an extra Canadian team of Joycelyn Ko/Grace Gao, who are a little too far from the other 4 teams to qualify, but have beaten each team at least once. Even though they cannot qualify, they can still defeat a team in the qualifying run to hinder their progress. Canada's Michelle Li and Alex Bruce are the frontrunners at the start of the tournament, but they needed a repeat result to keep them in the lead. With the draws being made with Bruce/Li on the top half with the Wang sisters [USA], they stood a really good chance to at least make a final, where they would either play Lee/Obanana [USA], Ried/Grether [CAN], or maybe even Ko/Gao [CAN], should they defeat either Lee/Obanana or Ried/Grether in the Semifinal.

Ultimately, Lee/Obanana, the team 2nd to Bruce/Li fell to Ried/Grether in 3 sets in the Quarterfinal, unable to increase their ranking points from this tournament. Ried/Grether continued to win, defeating Ko/Gao in straight sets to secure a spot in the final. On the top half, Bruce/Li managed to squeeze by the Wang sisters, continuing their undefeated streak against them, and won in the 3rd set, 21-19. The final proved to be quite interesting, with Bruce/Li being down quite significantly in the first. However, they managed to catch up and win 21-18. The second set, I really cannot comment on, because it took me 15 minutes to get a boxed salad from the nearby cafe. Also, that salad probably got me sick for the entire next week in Tahiti, regardless of all the probiotics I tried to taking. Regardless, Bruce/Li managed to secure their win and almost cement their spot to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. With this victory, they would only need to make a final at next week's Tahiti International to force the other teams to make a Quarterfinal at the India Super Series in order for a chance to surpass them.

WD SF: Alex BRUCE/Michelle LI [CAN] vs. Rena WANG/Iris WANG [USA]
Full Match

WD F: Alex BRUCE/Michelle LI [CAN] vs. Charmaine REID/Nicole GRETHER [CAN]
Full Match

The tournament was run quite efficiently by the head referee from Canada, Jeff Bell. The venue was, again, at the Club de Regatas in Lima, a beautiful club off the corner of a really high cliff which had it's own beach and many club amenities. We got to enjoy their pool at the end of tournament, along with their many choices of restaurants and cafes. For more higher quality photos, please check my Facebook Page!

Thank you for visiting!!

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