Korean men’s and women’s doubles share Malaysia Masters title in hard-fought battle

The Korean badminton men’s and women’s doubles pairs shared the title after a hard-fought victory over home team Malaysia.

Kang Min-hyuk (24, Samsung Life) and Seo Seung-jae (26, Armed Forces Athletic Corps) defeated Malaysia’s Man Wei Chong-Kai Yunte 2-1 (21-15 22-24 21-19) in the men’s doubles final of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour Super 500 Series Malaysia Masters on Monday in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Kang Min-hyuk-Seo Seung-jae, who won the Korea Open in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province, in April last year, returned to the top of the BWF World Tour after a 13-month absence. They reached the final of the German Open in March but were runners-up to Kim Won-ho (24, Samsung Life) and Choi Sol-gyu (28, Armed Forces Athletic Corps).

In the final of the Malaysia Masters, Kang Min-hyuk and Seo Seung-jae were the eventual winners, defeating Man Wei-chong and Kai-unte, who were the favorites to win the title at home.

This is the first time in three years that Kang Min-hyuk and Seo Seung-jae have won the men’s doubles title since Lee Yong-dae and Kim Ki-jung won the event in 2020.

Seo Seung-jae

After forcing their opponents into an error in the first set, Kang Min-hyuk and Seo Seung-jae took a 6-2 lead. Overpowering their opponents in attack, defense, and net play, they took the first set 21-15.

Fighting back, Man Wei Chong-Kai Yun-Te started the second set with a strong attack to take a 7-5 lead. However, Kang Min-hyuk and Seo Seung-jae regained the lead with solid defense and counterattacks. After turning the tide and scoring back-to-back points, Kang Min-hyuk and Seo Seung-jae seemed to have the game won, taking a 19-13 lead.

However, the pair of Man Wei-Chong and Kai-Un-Te would not go down without a fight and made it a 20-20 deuce. The two teams exchanged points and battled back and forth. At 22-22, Kang Min-hyuk made a critical serve error. In the ensuing rallying battle, Kang lost points and the match went to the final three sets.

Kang Min-hyuk (front) and Seo Seung-jae ⓒYonhap/AFP안전놀이터

Trailing 7-8 in the third set, Kang Min-hyuk briefly left the court to tie his shoelaces. However, it was judged to be a delay of game and the referee gave him a red card. Earlier, Seo Seung-jae was also warned and cumulatively gave away one point to his opponent.

Kang Min-hyuk and Seo Seung-jae were in danger of being mentally shaken, but they kept their focus and turned the tide at 12-11. At 18-18, Kang scored back-to-back points with exquisite drop shots and strong smashes. After reaching the 20th point, the pair won the gold medal in three sets.

Earlier in the women’s doubles final, Lee So-hee (29, Incheon International Airport) and Baek Hana (23, MG Sae-mae Village Bank) defeated Malaysia’s Tan Puli-Tina Muralitharan 2-1 (22-20 8-21 21-17) in a hard-fought match.

Lee So-hee (left) and Baek Ha-na ⓒYonhap/Shinhwa

Formed in October last year, Lee So-hee and Baek Hana first reached the top of the podium at the German Open in March. Since then, they have won one gold, five silver and three bronze medals and are ranked No. 6 in the world. They are also the top-ranked team this season.

In the quarterfinals, Lee and Paik defeated Japanese women’s doubles stalwarts and top seeds Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida 2-0 (21-16 21-17), and in the semifinals, Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara of Japan 2-0 (21-19 21-14).

Having proved themselves as the ‘Japan killers’, they faced the pair of Pulley-Muralitharan in the final, who had the support of the home crowd behind them. Ranked 11th in the world, they are the most aggressive women’s doubles team. With an offense that is just as strong as their male counterparts, they played to the lopsided support of the home crowd.

Lee So-hee (back) and Baek Hana (front) ⓒYonhap/Shinhwa

Despite the enthusiastic support from the Malaysian crowd, Lee So-hee and Baek Hana remained focused until the end. They scored the same goal as Aloran in the penalty shootout, bringing the 1-hour, 41-minute campaign to a close.

In total, the Korean team won two gold medals (men’s and women’s doubles) at the Malaysia Masters.