Michelle Li returned to the stage of her greatest triumph and was put through a stern test in the opening Women’s Singles round of the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017 today.
The Canadian (featured image), who won the 2014 Commonwealth Games gold at the Emirates Arena, cherished the memories going in, but once the match against Bulgaria’s Linda Zetchiri began, found the shuttles too hard to control. The Bulgarian, who won their last encounter at the World Championships in 2013, troubled Li with her tricky left-handed shots before Li got to grips with the situation and turned it around. The 16-21 21-17 21-16 result gave her an appointment with young Chinese Chen Xiaoxin.
“It was a struggle, the shuttles are very slow,” said Li. “I’m not used to heavy and slow shuttles, and I had a lot of trouble finding depth. I was hitting it short and then I started hitting it out. It was very tough.
“Fitness-wise I feel great, but I wasn’t able to use that fitness, because the shuttles were going outside. Nothing was working.
“She’s left-handed and he shots are unique, and I’m not used to her strokes. I had a tough time adjusting to her left hand and her skill. Towards the end I was comfortable with her but not with myself.”
The memories of winning at Emirates Arena, she said, would motivate her.
“Obviously it feels great, I hope I can have the same performance this year, but the opponents are different, everything is different, but I feel the nostalgia and I feel the motivation to do better here.”
Her compatriot Rachel Honderich joined Li in the second round, beating USA’s Iris Wang 21-13 21-18.
“I was nervous going in. This is my second World Championships. I’ve played her thrice, won two, lost the last one a year-and-a-half ago. I knew it would be tight. She’s shorter, but so fast, gets everything back, it can be frustrating, because you think you’ve finished the rally and she keeps getting the shuttle back. The important thing was to stay patient.”
Other Women’s Singles winners included Switzerland’s Sabrina Jaquet (21-14 18-21 21-10 over Ukraine’s Natalya Voytsekh); Germany’s Luise Heim (17-21 21-13 21-9 over England’s Fontaine Chapman) and Russia’s Evgeniya Kosetskaya (21-19 21-16 over France’s Delphine Lansac).
The closest match of the opening session featured France’s Mixed Doubles duo Ronan Labar/Audrey Fontaine against Indonesia’s Irfan Fadhilah/Weni Anggraini. From 17-all in the third, neither side had more than a point’s lead; both the French and the Indonesians had three match points each, and it was eventually Labar’s risk-taking that paid off, the Frenchman flick-serving to leave Anggraini stranded and ensuring victory at 21-13 11-21 27-25.
Labar/Fontaine face No.8 seeds Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing in the second round.
Their compatriots Jordan Corvee/Anne Tran however could not make it past the first hurdle, falling to Dutch pair Jacco Arends/Selena Piek 21-12 21-18.
Men’s Singles saw the big names cruise through without trouble.
Top seed Son Wan Ho (Korea) was given a bit of a workout by Finland’s Kalle Koljonen (21-14 21-16), while India’s Kidambi Srikanth barely raised a sweat in getting past Russia’s Sergey Sirant (21-13 21-12).
“The first round is always tough in such a big tournament. It’s been two months since I last played an event. Overall I’m happy with the way it went. I know there are a lot of expectations after my wins in Indonesia and Australia, but I’m not really following the news and I’m only focused on the next match.”
In Women’s Doubles, England’s Lauren Smith/Sarah Walker pulled off a 21-10 26-24 victory over Germany’s Lisa Kaminski/Hannah Pohl.
Chinese Taipei had a good start with both their pairs advancing. Chang Ching Hui/Yang Ching Tun needed just 26 minutes to beat USA’s Eva Lee/Paula Lynn Obanana in the opening match of the day, while Cheng Yu Chieh/Hu Ling Fang took four minutes less in stopping Italy’s Silvia Garino/Lisa Iversen.
Estonia’s Kristin Kuuba/Helina Ruutel surprised Germany’s Johanna Goliszewski/Lara Kaepplein 21-15 21-15.