CHOONGJU CITY: Malaysia's challenge in the Korean Open badminton championships ended when national number one Wong Choong Hann failed to get the better of top seed Chen Hong of China in the men's singles semi-finals yesterday.

Choong Hann's hopes of making his first appearance in the final of the Korean Open ended when he lost 8-15, 15-12, 8-15 to Chen Hong after battling for 73 minutes.

Chen Hong will meet reigning world champion Xia Xuanze in an all-Chinese men's singles final today.

Xuanze dashed home favourite Park Tae-sang's hopes of lifting the Korean Open title with a 15-9, 17-15 win in the other semi-final match.

National singles head coach Misbun Sidek said Chen Hong was in superb form yesterday and attributed his victory to his better strategy.

“Although Choong Hann played well, Chen Hong was controlling the front area throughout the game. Chen Hong was not rattled although he lost the second game.

“In the rubber game, Choong Hann then got under even more pressure after he failed to pick up points from his service,” said Misbun in a telephone interview from South Korea.

In their previous meeting, Choong Hann had beaten Chen Hong in the quarter-finals of the Danish Open last year.

But despite the defeat, Choong Hann has shown a marked improvement after suffering second round exits in the Swiss and All-England last month.

Choong Hann, who maintained his position as the world number four in the latest rankings, will definitely be out to put up a stronger performance in the Japan Open next week.

The five-star tournament in Tokyo will see a keen contest because it will be the last Open tournament to offer ranking points before the end of the Olympic qualifying period on April 30.

There is still the Asian Championships in Kuala Lumpur from April 20-25 but the Europeans will not be allowed to compete.

Newly appointed South Korea men's doubles coach Park Joo-bong will have to wait longer to see his charges win an Open title.

The Koreans will have no representatives in the men's doubles final after Yim Bang-eun-Kim Yong-hyun bowed out 6-15, 5-15 to young Indonesian pair Luluk Hadiyanto-Alven Yulianto yesterday.

Luluk-Alven will be up against China's World Championships semi-finalists Sang Yang-Zheng Bo today.

However, the Koreans are assured of a title in the mixed doubles. Kim Dong-moon-Ra Kyung-min will be chasing an unprecedented 13th consecutive Open title after beating China's Chen Qiqiu-Zhao Tingting 15-2, 15-5.

Dong-moon-Kyung-min will be the strong favourite when they square up against compatriots Kim Yong-hyun-Lee Hyo-jung today.

TheStar