India’s Srikanth Kidambi, winner of last week’s China Open, and Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen, winner of the French Open, faced off in a memorable Men’s Singles opening round encounter. At the end of a game of swinging fortunes and sparkling strokeplay, it was Kidambi who ensnared Chou, progressing into the second round with a 18-21 22-20 21-16 result.
A few other second-round entrants – including Jan O Jorgensen, Viktor Axelsen (Denmark) and Brice Leverdez (France) – survived tough opening assignments. First-round casualties included Kashyap Parupalli (India) to Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Thailand), Tian Houwei (China, 8) to Chong Wei Feng (Malaysia) and Tommy Sugiarto (Indonesia, 3) to Nan Wei (Hong Kong).
Kidambi and Chou, the two rising stars of badminton, set up a full-course menu that provided a sumptuous visual feast for the audience. Played at a probing, speculative pace rather than with dash and flair, it was a battle of wits as much as of precision, power and delicate strokes.
Chou led 10-6 in the third, but Kidambi refused to let him establish a big lead. He pulled level at 10 and inched ahead; the French Open champion eventually buckled under the strain of a fleet-footed opponent whose composure, anticipation and ease of movement never deserted him.
Second seed Jorgensen overcame mid-match blues to overcome the crafty Marc Zwiebler, semi-finalist at last week’s China Open. The Dane leaked points in the second game but fought back strongly in the third and emerged happy from the scrappy duel.
“I really had my difficulties today,” said Jorgensen.
“It is always tough with the first match and Marc came with confidence, but obviously he was tired so I knew I had a good chance of running him down. I lost focus in the second game, it was just one of those tough days. But I’m glad I fought it and that’s the difference between the old Jan and the new one. I’m winning some more matches now. I’m really happy with this win, because I didn’t play well.
“When I was younger Marc won most of our matches. He’s really tough, he’s a fighter. Even at 18-8 I knew that I had to stay focussed because he’s going to climb. He has some good drop shots and holding shots. I’m happy with my performance last week (at the China Open); there were many good things to take away. The last week was very good, the best I’ve had since (winning in) Indonesia.”
Axelsen will face Frenchman Brice Leverdez, who surprised Indonesia’s Simon Santoso 14-21 21-19 21-19.
“One side of the hall is windy,” said Leverdez.
“I got lucky because I took the right court in the beginning. He controlled me very well in the first game; in the second I played at a higher pace. I’m happy to play well and win a hard game. I’ve played well since April. Sometimes I’ve had bad results; now I know I can win almost against anyone. We have a new system at the national centre since one and a half years. We try to improve my game with more pace, so it’s working.”
In Women’s Singles, Japanese youngster Nozomi Okuhara (featured image) proved too feisty for Bitburger Open champion Sun Yu (China). The Japanese outlasted Sun 21-18 20-22 21-16 in an 85-minute match. Okuhara will face India’s PV Sindhu, who too was taken the distance in her opening round, 21-15 16-21 21-19 by Thailand’s Busanan Ongbumrungpan.
Apart from Sun, the other Chinese in the draw booked second-round places with straight-game wins: Wang Shixian (1) over Eriko Hirose (Japan); Wang Yihan (2) over Iris Wang (USA) and Liu Xin over Michelle Li (Canada).
There were few surprises in Men’s Doubles, but top seeds Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong (Korea) survived a close call in their opener against Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi (Indonesia), 22-20 25-23. Third seeds Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa (Japan) were shown the door by Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Pieler Kolding, 21-17 21-17.
Women’s Doubles eighth seeds Selena Piek/Eefje Muskens (Netherlands) fought off two match points against Vita Marissa/Shendy Puspa Irawati to prevail 21-17 11-21 23-21. In the category, India’s Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa too could not capitalise on two match point opportunities as they went down 16-21 21-14 23-21 to Malaysia’s Lim Yin Loo/Lee Meng Yean.
Local fans had plenty to cheer in Mixed Doubles as two home pairs made the second round. Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah overcame Danny Bawa Chrisnanta/Vanessa Neo (Singapore) 21-16 22-20, while Fernando Kurniawan/Poon Lok Yan had it easier against USA’s Howard Shu/Eva Lee 21-10 21-11. Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na eased past Malaysia’s Tan Aik Quan/Lai Pei Jing 21-13 21-12.