Joo Saehyuk the ace card for Korea
Photo By: An Sung Ho
2012 Olympic Games
Bronze medallists in Beijing four years ago; Korea is guaranteed at least one step higher on the medal rostrum, as a result of their efforts on the evening of Monday 5th August in the Menís Team event at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
They beat Hong Kong, China by three matches to nil in their semi-final contest to book their place in the gold medal contest.
However, it was a much closer contest than the score line may suggest.
It was not a one sided duel, Tang Peng, Jiang Tianyi and Leung Chu Yan fought to the bitter end but it was more experienced outfit of Ryu Seungmin, Oh Sangeun and Joo Saehyuk who won the day.
Sport is often about what might have been; it is about narrow margins and nowhere did that apply more than in the opening duel which saw Ryu Seungmin eventually gain the verdict over Tang Peng.
Short pimpled rubber on the backhand, reversed rubber on the forehand Tang Peng matched the dynamic traditional pen-holder Ryu Seungmin point for point, blow for blow.
Nothing to Choose
There was nothing to choose between the two gladiators as they fought for supremacy.
One felt that if Hong Kong China was to cause a second upset after beating third seeds Japan in the quarter-finals, Tang Peng had to beat Ryu Seungmin.
Favourite to Win
Joo Saehyuk would undoubtedly play both the singles, it was inconceivable he would play doubles and he was favourite to succeed on both visits to the table whoever he played.
Tang Peng came mightily close; in the deciding fifth game he held a lead, Ryu Seungmin recovered to hold match point at 10-9.
Tension mounted as the two stood toe to toe; then outrageous fortune for Ryu Seungmin; an attempted short return clipped the top of the net and dribbled over; Tang Peng had no chance whatsoever to return.
A tremendous match had finished in total anti-climax.
Ryu Seungmin won 7-11, 11-4, 11-6, 8-11, 11-9.
Success for Ryu Seungmin was soon followed with success for Joo Saehyuk; he mesmerized Jiang Tianyi.
The Korean defender recorded a straight games win (11-3, 11-6, 11-8) and underlined the fact that against Hong Kong China, he was the Korean ace card.
Back in Action Immediately
A heavy defeat for Joo Saehyuk but he had no time to dwell on the matter, a five minute break and then it was back to action. He partnered Leung Chu Yan in the doubles against Oh Sangeun and Ryu Seungmin.
The Hong Kong pair made a fine start; they won the opening game but the next two games went to the Koreans who were in harmony and gaining in confidence.
In the fourth game they established a four point lead, it appeared to be only a matter of time before the axe fell.
Match Points Saved
The Hong Kong duo fought and reduced the arrears to 9-all but at 10-9 it was match point to Korea; they saved the point and saved again at 11-10 before secure victory and forcing a deciding game.
Again in the fifth game the Koreans established a healthy lead, again the Hong Kong duo recovered; they save one further match point but they could not save a fourth.
Eventually Oh Sangeun and Ryu Seungmin succeeded; Korea celebrated, the goal of a place in the final had been achieved.
Mission Achieved for Joo Saehyuk
Furthermore, it meant Joo Saehyuk had a precious medal. He had not been a member of the Korean team in Beijing four years earlier when bronze had been clinched. Yoon Jaeyoung had played alongside Ryu Seungmin and Oh Sangeun.
Not only had the Korean goal been achieved; Joo Saehyuk had achieved a personal goal.
In the final Korea meets China; whilst Hong Kong China confronts Germany for the bronze medal.