Mia Blichfeldt had a “chilled” birthday on Monday but tonight the young Dane brought all the heat in her quest for the best gift she could give herself – a medal at the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2019.
Down but not out versus Saina Nehwal, the gutsy 22-year-old began to move better and focus on her shot placement, and suddenly a bad situation turned bright and then absolutely brilliant as Blichfeldt – with the pro-European crowd noisily backing her – found herself one win away from unwrapping that unique present.
In their first meeting, the still-maturing No.12 seed vanquished the 29-year-old Indian; a veteran of countless tournaments, with World Championship silver and bronze already in her war chest.
The beaming winner could barely believe what the neon scoreboard confirmed in St. Jakobshalle: 15-21 27-25 21-12 in 72 minutes.
She was into the quarterfinals of the women’s singles competition!
“It would be crazy to get a medal for my birthday. I have been dreaming a lot about a World Championship medal, so let’s see! If I get a medal, then I can celebrate!
“Hopefully, I can play a great match tomorrow and fight with everything I have.”
Attributing her victory to significant improvement in her mental fortitude, especially when matches are not going her way, the lanky athlete regrouped after a nightmarish start and blossomed in confidence as the match progressed.
“The first game was very bad. It went fast and I didn’t feel I did anything in my game plan. But I got a good start in the second game and that was important. I began moving the shuttle around and I felt more comfortable, and I found my defence – that was nice.”
Tomorrow, she faces Chen Yu Fei who scraped through a massive battle against Canada’s Michelle Li. The Chinese star prevailed 21-18 17-21 21-17, also in 72 minutes.
Blichfeldt’s success was one of three triumphs this evening which stoked the feel-good factor among European fans.
The joyous vibes began when Netherlands duo, Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek, delivered a stunning knockout blow to Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti in mixed doubles. Despite missing out on match point in the second game, the underdogs maintained their high spirits and continued their attacking play in the decider. For those daring tactics, they were rewarded handsomely: 21-13 21-23 21-8 in 50 electrifying minutes.
“We are really happy to be in the top eight of the Worlds – and with the way we played and with this score! We’re just so happy!” declared Piek.
Her partner said they were determined to “go for it today” and he was thrilled with their performance in the third game which he hailed as “brilliant badminton”. The pair vowed to “give it all we’ve got” again in their quarterfinal versus No.4 seeds, Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, of Thailand.
Meanwhile, Anders Antonsen regained his composure just in time to ensure all his hard work in the opening game of his men’s singles clash with Kanta Tsuneyama did not go to waste.
At 13-1 ahead, the Danish young gun engaged in a mental walkabout and unbelievably found himself scrambling to save game point before securing the match, 23-21 21-18.
“I should have closed that first game 10 to 15 minutes before I did. I already thought it was mine but he’s a hard-working guy who never gives up. It was a lesson (for me).
“I thrive in those situations…where it’s close and there’s a lot of tension. I like that. I showed today that I was good in that situation.”
“He’s a really tough player and a guy that I have struggled to win against. He’s a future legend, if you can say that. He has a bunch of titles. He’s a big name and, of course, a guy that I would like to beat.” – Anders Antonsen on his quarterfinal versus Chen Long (China)
Asked how he will defeat Chen, Antonsen replied: “I will not reveal that secret but you will see tomorrow.”