Friday, August 23, 2019
TEXT BY GAYLE ALLEYNE | BADMINTONPHOTO
In an awesome show of power, the young Dane seized control of a quarterfinal that was shaping into a titanic battle – after a tense first game – and blew away Olympic champion Chen Long in the second game for a 22-20 21-10 victory.
His 63-minute heroics ensured a place for Europe on the medals’ table in Basel, Switzerland, as the tournament enters its last two days, with tomorrow’s semifinals followed by the finals on Sunday at St. Jakobshalle.
Antonsen rebounded from a 4-10 deficit in the opening game, with Chen into stride early, and pegged his rival back to 11-11 and then 14-14, after which Antonsen won four of the next five points. Chen erased that lead and, at 18-18, there was everything to fight for. At 20-18 ahead, the Chinese No.3 seed appeared to have the first game in the bag but Antonsen was not done and reeled off four unanswered points to steal the advantage as they swapped sides.
That boost was all the 22-year-old needed as he fired ahead in the second game with a barrage of kills and smashes that Chen was powerless to defend. The contest was effectively over within minutes as the European Games champion opened leads of 10-3 and 15-6. Having learnt his lesson from the previous night (in which he almost wasted a 12-point lead), Antonsen maintained his attacking focus and finished the demolition job, much to the delight of spectators yearning for a European presence among the medallists.
“It’s a big achievement for me. It was my goal to bring home a medal. I said I would do it and I did, and it feels really satisfying. Now I have a new goal – to go to the final,” said the No.5 seed whose semifinal opponent will be Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen.
Chen blamed the loss on his failure to win the first game, noting it would have given him the momentum heading into the second game in which he was “overrun by Antonsen”.
Though China’s interest in men’s singles is over, Chen Yu Fei made sure to keep her country’s flag flying in the women’s solo event. Her calm and resolute composure triumphed over Mia Blichfeldt’s erratic shots in the critical closing exchanges of their quarterfinal to earn the No.4 seed a 21-17 18-21 21-15 victory in 76 minutes.
Trailing 12-15 in the decider, the 21-year-old won nine straight points – many thanks to her Danish rival’s unforced errors – to clinch a semifinal berth versus India’s Pusarla V. Sindhu.
“I told myself not to give up; to keep fighting. My goal is to win gold,” said Chen.
Blichfeldt was hugely disappointed at wasting her priceless opportunity.
“I made too many easy mistakes. She didn’t give me anything for free. At this level, you cannot drop mentally or try to win the rallies too quickly and I did that.”
• Women’s doubles defending champions, Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara of Japan, progressed to the semifinals after their teammate, Koharu Yonemoto, suffered an injury to her left calf. She and Shiho Tanaka retired at 3-3 in the second game, with Matsumoto/Nagahara having won the first game (22-20).
• China’s men’s doubles world champions, Li Jun Hui/Liu Yu Chen, are into the semifinals, beating their countrymen, Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan, 21-13 21-12. Their mixed-doubles peers, Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping, ousted Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet of Hong Kong (21-19 21-18).