Thursday, August 24, 2017
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Men’s Doubles contenders Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen and Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong crashed out of the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017 today to less-fancied opponents.
Top seeds Li/Liu of China ran into spirited resistance from Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan/Rian Agung Saputro and fell in three games, while Olympic silver medallists Goh/Tan were shot down by a young Korean pair. Chung Eui Seok/Kim Dukyoung, still relative unknowns at the elite level, ran roughshod over Goh/Tan as they closed out the second round in just 39 minutes, 21-18 21-16.
It was a session that saw the Men’s Doubles pairs in particular struggle against lesser accomplished rivals. The first match of the session gave a hint of things to come, when Ahsan and Saputro matched wits with Li and Liu. With the shuttles slow and not giving the attackers easy kills, it was a hard slog for both pairs, but Ahsan and Saputro showed they were prepared to stay in the rallies. The Indonesians defended brilliantly; counter-attacking with sudden flicks and drives and catching their opponents at the far corners.
Two match points missed, the Indonesians celebrated when the shuttle hit the tape and died on their opponents’ side, giving them a 19-21 21-18 21-18 victory.
“We were confident of beating them, we had nothing to lose,” said Ahsan. “We tried to enjoy our time on court as the pressure was on them.”
Asked if defending his crown was on his mind (he won the last World Championships with a different partner, Hendra Setiawan), Ahsan said: “Well, I’m aware that I’m defending the title but I want to stay humble and play my best with my new partner.”
Malaysians Goh and Tan’s below-par season continued as they failed to step up to the occasion and turned in a listless performance against a Korean pair that hasn’t had much to show in their short career, but for a semi-final at the Jeju Victor Korea Masters last December.
Chung and Kim led from start to finish – at no stage did the Malaysians hold a lead or catch up with them. The upset gave the Koreans a third round place against Olympic bronze medallists Chris Langridge/Marcus Ellis – 21-15 21-10 winners over Austria’s Dominik Stipsits/Roman Zirnwald.
No.4 seeds Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda (Japan), No.6 seeds Chai Biao/Hong Wei (China) and No.3 seeds Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (Indonesia) also dropped a game each in their second round encounters.
Lin Stretched by Holst
Also dropping a game was five-time Men’s Singles champion Lin Dan, who was required to dig deep to overcome battling Dane Emil Holst 19-21 21-8 21-16.
Holst showed patience in countering the crafty gameplay of Lin, who chose to rely on a rallying game with control and precision rather than blistering attack. The lanky Dane caught Lin off-guard with some big smashes, and at a game apiece and 16-all in the third, there might have been many in the audience who wondered if the fate that befell Lee Chong Wei yesterday would claim Lin.
However, the No.7 seed timed his burst at the right time; the sudden cross-court smashes caught Holst by surprise, and eventually he made it home with a fair cushion.
“I’m very happy to pull off the win,” said Lin. “He’s tall and powerful and he gave me a lot of trouble. He beat me at the German Open this year, so I’m happy to reverse the result. Even though it was a long match, I should be okay for the next round since we prepared quite well.”
In the same half, India’s Kidambi Srikanth, Denmark’s Anders Antonsen, China’s Shi Yuqi and Hong Kong’s Wong Wing Ki made their way ahead with varying levels of difficulty.
Wong survived three match points against Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama, prevailing in the closest match of the opening session, 21-23 21-15 26-24, in 84 minutes.
Shi Yuqi overcame trouble from Brazil’s Ygor Coelho de Oliveira, completing his victory in three games, 21-17 21-23 21-10. His compatriot, defending champion Chen Long, breezed past Indonesian veteran Sony Dwi Kuncoro.
OUE Singapore Open champion Sai Praneeth, in the bottom half, might say a prayer of thanks for his Indonesian opponent Anthony Ginting, who blew an 18-12 lead in the third and virtually gifted the match to the Indian.
The Indonesian froze with the end in sight, and the Indian happily made his way back, claiming eight straight points before the hapless Ginting made a feeble attempt to stem the tide. Praneeth completed the escape act at 14-21 21-18 21-19 and will await the winner between Germany’s Marc Zwiebler and Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen.
In Women’s Singles, the big names – Nozomi Okuhara (Japan), Saina Nehwal (India), Sung Ji Hyun (Korea) and He Bingjiao (China) – enjoyed relatively easy wins.
There were no surprises in Women’s Doubles either, with No.5 seeds Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan (Korea), No.8 seeds Luo Ying/Luo Yu (China) and No.10 seeds Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao (Japan) progressing in straight games.