The Men’s Singles draw at the Yonex Denmark Open took a dramatic twist tonight with the last-minute withdrawal of top gun, Lin Dan, catapulting the rejuvenated Jan Jorgensen into the quarter-finals.
An injury to his right knee, which he first felt yesterday, forced the Chinese legend to pull out of the Superseries Premier tournament shortly before he was due to lock horns with Jorgensen – Denmark’s top player and world No.3 who ironically is now rebounding from an injury to his right knee. This late-breaking development disappointed a packed Odense Sports Park; fans eager to see if the hometown hero could repeat the success he savoured against Lin Dan in the quarter-finals of the Yonex Open Japan in June.
“I’m really sorry to withdraw. My knee has an injury and it was getting worse in warm-up today. Now I have to fly back to Beijing and have a thorough examination and hope that I can recover quickly,” said the two-time Olympic gold medallist who turned 31 on Tuesday.
“I hope I can still play in the China Open and Hong Kong Open and maybe even the Superseries Finals in Dubai. It’s disappointing for me because I really wanted to play against Jorgensen here. So this is a big loss for me too.”
Jorgensen was also dismayed but, of course, looked ahead optimistically at his chance to progress further into the tournament.
“I was looking forward to this huge game on my home turf. It’s a big blow. Nevertheless I’m happy to be in the quarter-finals and we’ll see what happens,” said the 26-year-old who faces India’s Kashyap Parupalli for a place in the semi-finals.
Boasting a 4-1 head-to-head record against the Commonwealth Games champion, Jorgensen – who entered this event with “no expectations” – suddenly looks like he could have a major say come Saturday – or possibly even Sunday.
Lin Dan’s team-mate and defending Denmark Open champion, Chen Long, survived a scare from the unpredictable Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. Having squandered the first game with some loose shots, the seasoned competitor tightened his strokeplay to overcome his Thai rival, 16-21 21-19 21-19. Another player against whom Chen has struggled in recent times – Son Wan Ho of Korea – also won through to the last eight; beating flashy Japanese Kento Momota, 22-20 12-21 21-16.
While all the intrigue around Lin Dan was unfolding, France’s Brice Leverdez produced another sterling performance to be counted among the quarter-finalists in a World Superseries event for the first time in his career. It was also the first occasion on which he defeated a Chinese opponent – ousting Chen Yuekun (21-19 21-16). For his tireless efforts he gets a crack at Chen Long.
“I’m proud of how I played and I’m really excited. I’m an outsider here but I’ve showed I can do it. I’ve had a lot of support from my federation and my family and I’ve been working hard,” said the 28-year-old, crediting increased speed in his shot-making for the rewards he has been reaping.
“I’m putting more pressure on opponents now. Before I was too slow and was giving them too much time to play. I hope I can play well again and give Chen Long a tough match. It should be great.”
All four Indians remaining in the draw advanced to the quarter-finals; two in Men’s Singles and two in Women’s Singles. Kashyap Parupalli and Kidambi Srikanth won versus Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka (Indonesia) and Hsu Jen Hao (Chinese Taipei) respectively while their female peers – Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu – enjoyed similar success on court. Sindhu took out Ksenia Polikarpova of Russia (21-17 21-19) while Nehwal dismissed often-stubborn Japanese, Minatsu Mitani.
“I was happy with the way I moved and with how my strokes were falling. Today was much better,” assessed Nehwal, following her 21-12 21-10 victory.
On the Mixed Doubles front, it is shaping into a familiar story of the Big Four with Chinese power pairs – Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei and Xu Chen/Ma Jin – moving into the last eight as well as No. 2 seeds, Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen of Denmark, and the Indonesian duo of Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir.
The latter ended the quest of young Chinese, Lu Kai/Huang Yaqiong (21-12 21-11), but another upcoming partnership from that country – Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin – served notice they could be the surprise contenders, triumphing 21-13 21-12 against Thai veterans, Sudket Prapakamol/Saralee Thoungthongkam. Another Danish combination – Mads Pieler Kolding and Kamilla Rytter Juhl (left) – is also in the hunt after brushing aside Japan’s Kenichi Hayakawa and Misaki Matsutomo, 21-14 21-14.
* The improving Beiwen Zhang booked a last-eight spot in Women’s Singles, thwarting Thailand’s Busanan Ongbumrungpan, 21-15 21-17. The American now tackles world No.1, Li Xuerui, for a semi-final berth. Thailand suffered an even bigger shock with the demise (21-9 22-24 21-13) of Ratchanok Intanon at the hands of China’s Liu Xin. She now takes on her team-mate Wang Yihan for a place in the semi-finals.
* Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi (featured image) overcame the loss of the first game to triumph over Jung Kyung Eun/Kim Ha Na of Korea in Women’s Doubles. The Japanese won 17-21 21-17 21-16. Their team-mates Reika Kakiiwa/Miyuki Maeda also advanced as did four pairs from China, including defending champions Bao Yixin/Tang Jinhua.
* The top guns of Men’s Doubles progressed towards the business end of the tournament with Korean defending champions, Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong, facing Gideon Markus Fernaldi/Markis Kido (Indonesia) in the quarter-finals while another Indonesian pair, Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan, battle China’s Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan. Others in contention include Denmark’s own, Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen, who oppose Chai Biao/Hong Wei.