No Men’s Doubles pair has defended its title at the Yonex All England Open since 1996 – and that statistic will remain for at least another year.
China’s Liu Xiaolong/Qiu Zihan, seen as contenders for the title, crashed out in the opening round today to Anders Skaarup Rasmussen/Kim Astrup Sorensen of Denmark (featured image). Even more surprising was the score as the fourth seeds perished without a fight; 21-12 21-9 in just over half hour.
There were also a number of casualties in Men’s Singles: fourth seed Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark; third seed Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia; seventh seed Du Pengyu of China and eighth seed Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam. While Jorgensen capitulated quickly, 21-8 21-18 to Korea’s Son Wan Ho, the others battled hard. Gao Huan (China; left) and Lee Dong Keun (Korea), who came through qualifying rounds, extended their run beating Sugiarto and Nguyen respectively. Du Pengyu could not keep up with inspired local boy Rajiv Ouseph in a 21-16 11-21 21-14 defeat.
Last week’s Yonex German Open runner-up Hans-Kristian Vittinghus of Denmark showed plenty of grit, turning potential disaster into victory against China’s Tian Houwei. Vittinghus trailed by a game and two match points, but prevailed comfortably in the decider: 15-21 23-21 21-11.
Liu/Qiu’s loss was among a few setbacks for China but it could have been even worse for the Asian powerhouse; defending three All England titles from last season. The Chinese would have breathed a massive sigh of relief as 2012 Women’s Singles champion Li Xuerui teetered on the brink of elimination – facing a match point – but avoided the carnage in a long thriller against young Thai, Busanan Onbumrungpan. The top seed looked to be on course as she pocketed the first game 21-14, but her opponent comfortably clinched the second. Momentum see-sawed with Ongbumrungpan and then Li leading in the decider. From 17-19 down, the Thai won four straight points. One more would seal Li’s fate but the Chinese world No. 1 is made of steely stuff and it came to the fore under pressure. She refused to yield and came through the fire 21-14 15-21 22-20 – punching the air in celebration.
“It was tough but that happens in the first round sometimes. Busanan played really well and I was struggling with the conditions. The shuttle was slower so it was harder for an attacker like me to play my normal game,” explained a relieved Li afterwards.
“I will be better prepared for my next match. This tournament is very important to me because in 2012 I won here and it was the start of a great season for me. I hope I can repeat that success.”
Another stunning result in Women’s Singles was the exit of eighth seed Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei to Michelle Li (right), 22-20 22-20. Canadian Li capitalised on the few opportunities she had in either game; in the second Tai had three game points but the Canadian levelled and triumphed on her first match point. For a player who has lost the only match she has played this year – a first-round loss at the Yonex German Open last week – the result would have been particularly satisfying.
Last year’s runner-up Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) didn’t look sharp either in her opener against Gu Juan. The Singaporean nearly stole the match from Intanon, levelling a 14-17 deficit in the decider. However, Intanon remained strong in the final stages to close it out 20-22 21-15 21-18.
“I was a bit nervous and she pushed me. I hope I will play better as I go on. My aim is to make the quarter-finals and take it from there,” said the 19-year-old World champion.
* In Mixed Doubles, Russia’s Vitalij Durkin/Nina Vislova gave a terrific account of themselves against Asian champions Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na (right). The Russians won a tight first game and seemed headed for victory at 19-14 and then 20-18, but the Koreans came back heroically, 26-28 23-21 21-16.
* German Open Men’s Doubles champions Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda could not overcome the first hurdle at the All England. Seventh seeds Lee Sheng Mu/Tsai Chia Hsin of Chinese Taipei were never threatened as they posted a 21-17 21-19 result to book a second-round appointment with Mads-Conrad Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding of Denmark. Local hopefuls Chris Adcock/Andrew Ellis had their hands full with Liang Jui Wei/Liao Kuan Hao (Chinese Taipei) and squeezed through 18-21 21-13 22-20.
* German qualifiers in Women’s Doubles, Carla Nelte/Isabel Herttrich (below) offered stubborn resistance to eighth seeds Jang Ye Na/Kim So Young, but the Koreans eventually prevailed 21-8 13-21 21-15. Also progressing in three games was the English pair of Gabrielle Adcock/Lauren Smith – 21-17 13-21 21-15 over Eefje Muskens/Selena Piek of the Netherlands.