Men’s Singles continued to provide intrigue at Emirates Arena this evening as three eminent seeds fought off gutsy challengers to reach the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2017 second round.
As if the three-game triumphs toughed out by No.6 seed Chou Tien Chen and Tian Houwei – the No.10 seed – were not enough, an energised Takuma Ueda stretched Viktor Axelsen the distance in the second-last match on centre court. Switching sides, the big Dane regrouped and, though his rival fought hard, came through 17-21 21-6 21-13 to keep his reputation intact as the No.3 seed.
Looking a tad lethargic, and with his opponent moving faster, Axelsen squandered a 15-11 advantage in the opening game. However, the 23-year-old got a flying start in the second game and maintained the momentum to force a decider which he also dominated despite his Japanese opponent’s best efforts.
“I knew it would be a tough match against Ueda. I respect him as an opponent. In the first game, I started too slow and he played at a high pace. I managed to step up in the second and the third and I am really pleased about that,” said Axelsen who faces Eetu Heino of Finland in tomorrow’s second round.
The latter battled past Estonia’s Raul Must, 22-20 16-21 21-15.
Earlier, Chinese Taipei hopeful Chou let slip control of his match versus England’s Toby Penty before pulling away from 14-14 in the decider to progress to the second round. His 21-13 10-21 21-14 success earned him a place opposite Marc Zwiebler of Germany.
Regarding today’s performance, Chou noted the “shuttle was slow and I never played him before” but the 27-year-old was confident this experience would stand him in good stead for the remainder of the tournament.
China’s Tian was also asked some stern questions by Danish veteran, Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus, before propelling to a 21-14 17-21 21-16 victory that set him up for a second-round tussle with Russia’s Vladimir Malkov. However, with a little luck and a bit more stamina, it could have been Vittinghus who would have been facing his fellow European. Impressively ahead 16-12 in the third game, the Dane seemed to wilt as Tian blitzed past him with nine straight points. Vittinghus later admitted that his energy had waned and that he suffered cramps during the match.
Meanwhile, defending Men’s Singles World champion, Chen Long of China, breezed through his first match, ousting Georges Julien Paul of Mauritius (21-7 21-9) while experienced Indonesian, Sony Dwi Kuncoro, had little trouble with the Czech Republic’s Milan Ludik (21-16 21-7).
There was less drama on the Women’s Singles front as the likes of top seed Akane Yamaguchi (Japan; featured image), No.4 seed Pusarla V Sindhu (India), No.5 seed Sun Yu (China) and No. 8 seed Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) came through unscathed. However, 2013 World champion Intanon was not happy with her performance, stating she “must play better” if she is to wrest her second title. Intanon faces blossoming Chinese Chen Xiaoxin who thwarted the ambitions of Canada’s Michelle Li (21-13 27-25).
“I lost in straight games last time versus Intanon. This time I want to fight all the way to the third game if I have to,” said 19-year-old Chen.
Having triumphed over Luise Heim of Germany, Beatriz Corrales set up a second-round clash with the imposing Sun Yu. The Spaniard, seeded No.15, won her opening match 21-16 21-19. No.13 seed, Cheung Ngan Yi of Hong Kong, rebounded to conquer Evgeniya Kosetskaya of Russia (16-21 21-9 21-11) in the nightcap fixture. Next up for Cheung is Pusarla V Sindhu.
Elsewhere, Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek stalled the imminent end of their partnership at least one more day. The Dutch shrugged off the loss of the first game to beat India’s Meghana Jakkampudi and Poorvisha Ram, 13-21 21-16 21-8, in Women’s Doubles.
As one of the few European pairs to have beaten some of their Asian peers in recent years, the duo are hunting a final hurrah together in Muskens’ last tournament.
“I’ve been working hard to get back and I need these kind of matches to get back my rhythm,” said Piek who was sidelined by injury following the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.
In her ‘goodbye tournament’, Muskens is hoping for a memorable run in this event to cap her journey as a professional player. If that is to happen, she and Piek will have to defeat rising Japanese pair and No.9 seeds, Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota.