Despite a minor hiccup en route, Lin Dan and Jan Jorgensen tonight confirmed their eagerly-awaited appointment in the second round of the Yonex Denmark Open 2014 tomorrow evening.
There is so much to this storyline and the performance of either Men’s Singles ace in the tournament’s opening salvos added another layer of intrigue for fans to consider as the hours tick by until the big clash at Odense Sports Park.
While two-time Olympic champion and badminton supremo, Lin Dan (featured image; left), was pushed and certainly did not have it all his way against Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen (right), the gutsy Jorgensen returned to action with as polished a demolition as he could have wished for. Though not much should probably be read into the Chinese legend’s hard-fought 22-20 10-21 21-18 victory over Chou, the night-cap result did spark speculation about whether the last man to beat Lin can be the next man to do so.
“I know there’s a chance but I’ll have to play at my highest level. I was drained after the match in Japan but I love playing him because it brings out the best in me. I’m glad he’s back,” said Jorgensen (featured image; right), recalling the Yonex Open Japan quarter-final in June in which he conquered Lin.
The Dane’s commanding 21-11 21-16 blitz – that condemned Germany’s Marc Zwiebler to an early flight home – was all the more impressive as it was his first competitive foray since his injury-induced retirement at the Li-Ning BWF World Championships. However, there was little that hinted of the 26-year-old’s recent troubles as he glided across the court, looking sharp; showing great anticipation and reflexes; and pouncing at every opportunity for kills. A neat back-hand drop shot to earn the only match point he needed brought a fist pump and a bright smile and, afterwards, even he marvelled at his output.
“I’m quite surprised I did that well. I was taking it easy and felt relaxed. Yes, it was pretty good,” acknowledged Jorgensen who was 14-1 up on his rival in the first game and maintained the lead throughout the second game also.
By contrast, veteran Lin Dan wavered against Chou – ironically the player versus whom Jorgensen retired at the World Championships – at times looking vulnerable and, for a moment, causing nervous spectators to wonder if the dream match-up was in jeopardy. In the end, pedigree prevailed and the maestro – though tested – came through.
Having declared his mission is to reach the prestigious BWF Destination Dubai World Superseries Finals in December, Lin Dan – lying way back in the pack at No.29 – will have to take the rankings by storm in the remaining four tournaments to make the elite top eight; stops in France, China and Hong Kong follow. A stumble here would massively dent his ambitions.
Meanwhile, most of the first round passed uneventfully, with the main actors playing their parts according to script and progressing to the next stage. However, there was disappointment in Men’s Singles for Odense’s own Viktor Axelsen (above; left) as well as No.5 seed Tommy Sugiarto (Indonesia), No. 6 seed Wang Zhengming (China), Rajiv Ouseph (England) and another Danish hope, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus, who appeared set to come from behind to beat Frenchman, Brice Leverdez (above; right).
Led by China’s dominant trio of Li Xuerui, Wang Shixian and defending Denmark Open champion, Wang Yihan, Women’s Singles too is chock-full of talent. India’s duo of Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu are in the mix plus Sung Ji Hyun of Korea; Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) and Japan’s Minatsu Mitani, Sayaka Takahashi and Akane Yamaguchi. Only the departures of No.6 seed Bae Yeon Ju (Korea) – plummeting 21-14 21-15 to Thailand’s Busanan Ongbumrungpan (below) – and Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying would have raised any eyebrows. The latter fell 16-21 22-20 21-16 early in the day to promising American, Beiwen Zhang.
* After being derailed in the Li-Ning BWF World Championships, the Chinese combo of Bao Yixin/Tang Jinhua was eager to get back on track on the tournament circuit, ousting Danish rivals, Line Damkjaer Kruse/Marie Roepke, 22-20 21-13. Meanwhile, Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek (below) of the Netherlands enhanced their Women’s Doubles credentials with a smooth 21-17 21-15 win over India’s Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa.
* Declaring they are “highly motivated” to win their first Denmark Open, Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan made a decent start, defeating Men’s Doubles opponents, Hirokatsu Hashimoto/Noriyasu Hirata of Japan, 22-20 24-22. Korea’s three top pairs, including title-holders Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong and World champions Ko Sung Hyun/Shin Baek Choel, also advanced to the second round.
* Brother-and-sister partners, Markis Kido and Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth, won their respective level-doubles matches but failed to find their range against Japan’s Keigo Sonoda/Shizuka Matsuo (below) in Mixed Doubles. The Indonesians lost the hard-fought battle, 27-25 21-19.