Thursday, August 22, 2019
TEXT BY GAYLE ALLEYNE | BADMINTONPHOTO
Both No.2 singles seeds, as well as the second-seeded pair in men’s doubles, had their backs to the wall in their respective last-16 matches this evening at the TOTAL BWF World Championships 2019.
Chinese Taipei teammates, Chou Tien Chen and Tai Tzu Ying, needed all their experience, patience and determination to overcome younger rivals and advance to the quarterfinals of the showpiece tournament in Basel, Switzerland.
First, Chou had his hands full with the courageous Loh Kean Yew pressuring him all the way with a barrage of enterprising shots in the second and third games that genuinely worried the usually unflappable player across the net. Having seen the 22-year-old Singaporean square their men’s singles match and then start positively in the decider, Chou was forced to find another gear as he wriggled free from 8-8 to 18-10. Just three more points and his day’s work would be done but, not so fast, Loh dug in for another comeback and in quick time just two points separated them.
In a nail-biting finish, Chou came through 21-13 18-21 21-17; happy to win but with much to ponder.
“He had a strong smash and it was difficult to defend. It was a high-level match and I had to raise my quality. This will make me better for my next match,” said the 29-year-old determined to advance to the semifinals for the first time.
Loh lauded Chou’s mental strength, noting his rival “handled the situation much better” when things got tight.
Tai was also left with much to consider in women’s singles as 21-year-old Kim Ga Eun drew countless errors from the world No.2 star, known for her racket wizardry. It was a curious sight to behold: one minute, a mesmerising stroke – even with game points threatening – and the next, a wild shot to help her Korean opponent’s tally. Nonetheless, the 25-year-old saved six game points en route to her patchy 24-22 24-22 triumph.
“It was a tough match…a wake-up call. I need to work on reducing my errors. Things will only get tougher from here,” said Tai candidly.
Just how tough became apparent later as Pusarla V. Sindhu emerged from a 34-minute rout of Beiwen Zhang (21-14 21-6) to book her place across from Tai. Already boasting two bronze and two silver World Championship medals, the Indian No.5 seed is focused on gold this time.
“This is my first World Championship. I’ve not been in this situation before, but my coach told me to be patient and not waste my energy,” said the Thai player.
Defending world champions, Li Jun Hui/Liu Yu Chen, muscled their way into the quarterfinals in a rapid-fire men’s doubles shoot-out against Japan’s Takuto Inoue/Yuki Kaneko. The Chinese No.2 seeds prevailed 21-11 19-21 21-19 and will face teammates, Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan, for a semifinal spot.
“I’ve lost to him three times but everyone is under pressure in the World Championships. I will try my best. I’m confident with how I’m playing and I think I have a chance.” – Kantaphon Wangcharoen re. his quarterfinal versus Chou Tien Chen
• Women’s doubles top seeds and title-holders, Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara, held off Denmark’s Maiken Fruergaard/Sara Thygesen (21-19 21-19). Japan has four pairs in the quarterfinals and is already assured of a bronze medal in this category.
• Choi Solgyu/Seo Seung Jae continued their fearless men’s doubles campaign, saving a match point to beat Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yang/Wang Chi-lin (19-21 23-21 21-16). The Koreans will battle Indonesia’s Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto for a semifinal place.