It was a session of the underdog as players from the so-called less developed badminton nations made a strong statement at the TOTAL BWF World Championships today.
Poland, Uganda and Brazil may have finished second-best to their more established rivals, but they showed they weren’t out of depth in elite-level badminton.
It was a session when the top contenders felt the heat. Men’s Doubles duo Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan, despite the strong backing of the crowd, just about escaped from the clutches of France’s Ronan Labar/Baptiste Careme (featured image) in three tight games. In Women’s Singles, No.6 seed Wang Yihan was matched for the most part by young Vietnamese Vu Thi Trang (below) before the 2011 World champion shook off her challenger in the third game: 21-18 17-21 21-12.
Labar and Careme stole the thunder of their illustrious rivals early in the match and matched them shot for shot as it headed to a tense climax. Staying within a couple of points, the Frenchmen refused to let Ahsan and Setiawan wriggle away. Eventually, it was a service error by Careme that sealed their fate: 19-21 21-17 21-18.
“Of course we are very disappointed. We were very close. We know we are capable, but we have never beaten any of them. If we had this win, we could think of aiming to get into the top ten,” said Labar.
In Men’s Singles, No.13 seed Hu Yun was kept on court longer than me might have anticipated. Poland’s Michal Rogalski unleashed his thundering smashes to grab the second game before Hu regained his bearings in the third.
“It was a really nice experience. I did my best. Tried to be patient and played my game,” said Rogalski.
“I think I got more excited in the third. In the second part of the third game, he showed his experience, he played better shots. That was the difference. We were close in the middle, then I got excited that I could win, but he was cool.”
Brazil’s Daniel Paiola, living his dream in the form of playing his idol Lin Dan (China), had his moments but the gulf was too vast for him to conquer, even though he led briefly in the second. The five-time World champion progressed into the third round with a 21-14 21-14 result.
“It was great, I was happy to play him. Lin Dan is good in everything. It was my dream to play him. I don’t have words to express my feelings. We train watching what he does. In 2010 I played Peter Gade, and it was the same feeling. For now, this will be my best tournament ever. For a long time Brazil didn’t win a round in the World Championships. It’s good to see that at least we can play in the World Championships.”
No.11 seed HS Prannoy had some trouble closing out his second round match against Uganda’s Edwin Ekiring, who had his chances to take the match to a third game. Ekiring led for most of the second game but could not capitalise on his openings, falling 21-14 21-19.
“For me it’s an achievement to be playing here,” said Ekiring, who suffered a horrific accident in 2009 and spent a year in rehab.
“I feel proud to play again at this level and enjoy myself. People should know that Africans can play badminton.”
This was a sentiment he shared with Rogalski, who believes the players from outside badminton’s traditional strongholds are beginning to catch up.
“These results show we can play very good badminton, no matter where we are from. You can be from Cuba, Brazil, Poland, Uganda, and you can be in the top 32, it’s really good for badminton.”
Prannoy’s compatriot, Kashyap Parupalli (10), lost a close encounter to Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh, while Hong Kong’s Ng Wei (above) broke local hearts with a 26-24 8-21 22-20 result over Tommy Sugiarto (15).
In Men’s Doubles, No.13 seeds Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi joined compatriot Ahsan/Setiawan in the third round. Their teammates Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari too progressed in Women’s Doubles, quelling Malaysia’s Lim Yin Loo/Lee Meng Yean 17-21 21-13 21-11.
Other Women’s Doubles seeds to progress were Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl; India’s Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa (right) and Japan’s Reika Kakiiwa/Miyuki Maeda.