Last week’s Thaihot China Open champion Li Xuerui suffered a shock loss in the opening round of the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open today.
Li has seen very few first-round losses in her career; the upset to Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara capped a dramatic reversal of fortunes that also meant she would stay behind compatriots Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan in the race to the season-ending Dubai World Superseries Finals.
It was an uncharacteristically subdued performance from the former No.1. Li fell behind midway in the second game and was never able to threaten Okuhara from there. Her normally devastating sliced drop shots and fierce smashes were off their mark; the second game was a rout, with Okuhara storming to 15-3 from 2-2 and finishing the match 21-19 21-9 in 34 minutes.
Okuhara admitted that Li was far from her best. “I’m happy I won, but I cannot say I’m greatly thrilled because she wasn’t playing well today.”
Among those making it to the second round were Okuhara’s compatriots Akane Yamaguchi, Minatsu Mitani, Kaori Imabeppu and Sayaka Sato; defending champion Tai Tzu Ying (Chinese Taipei); Sung Ji Hyun (Korea) and qualifiers Tsang Wing Chiu (Hong Kong) and Chen Hsiao Huan (Chinese Taipei). World champion Carolina Marin blitzed the challenge of India’s PV Sindhu 21-17 21-9.
An early casualty in Men’s Singles was No.2 seed Jan O Jorgensen (Denmark), beaten 21-15 21-19 by China’s Wang Zhengming. Jorgensen struggled for rhythm from the start and although he stayed close in the second, Wang closed it out in 37 minutes. Denmark suffered another blow through the exit of Viktor Axelsen, beaten 21-17 21-10 by Japan’s Kazumasa Sakai, whose compatriots Kento Momota and Kenta Nishimoto also advanced.
India’s Kidambi Srikanth, semi-finalist last year, also fell early and saw his Dubai dreams under threat. Srikanth’s nightmare season since winning the India Open continued, as he fell to China’s Tian Houwei for the fifth straight time, 21-16 15-21 24-22.
Defending champion Son Wan Ho (Korea) wavered but had the measure of Kenichi Tago (Japan) 21-18 6-21 21-10.
Indonesia’s Anthony Ginting nearly blew his chances against veteran Wei Nan, but kept his head to enter the next round. Ginting had a 12-6 lead in the third, but sent some wild smashes and Wei caught up and went ahead 18-14. The young Indonesian tightened his game in time, and accelerated towards the end to emerge winner at 21-18 17-21 21-19.
Young Indonesian pair Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Gideon Markus Fernaldi upset No.7 seeds Liu Xiaolong/Qiu Zihan.
The Indonesians, who have only paired up this year since the All England in March, were dominant for the most part over the BWF World Championships runners-up. They were on course to wrap up the match in straight games but some good netplay by Liu and Qiu delayed the inevitable. Sukamuljo and Fernaldi had the Chinese in a tangle in the decider and eased past them 21-19 21-23 21-8.
“The shuttle was a bit fast and there was a bit of wind in the hall, that’s why they made a lot of mistakes. Maybe they were confused,” said Fernaldi, the son of former Indonesian international Kurniahu. “Their service was difficult to pic and their netplay was very good. The spin made it difficult to return.”
No.8 seeds Lee Sheng Mu/Tsai Chia Hsin (Chinese Taipei) were shown the door by qualifiers Or Chin Chung/Tang Chun Man (Hong Kong), while No.5 seeds Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa (Japan) too crashed out, beaten in three games by another Chinese Taipei pair, Chen Hung Ling/Wang Chi-Lin.
His compatriots in Women’s Doubles, Anggia Shitta Awanda/Mahadewi Istirani Ni Ketut, very nearly put out the higher-rated Tang Jinhua/Zhong Qianxin of China. The Indonesians had the match in their grasp when they led 19-15 in the third, but some nervous play saw the Chinese level and then save match point. Tang and Zhong maintained the pressure to squeeze through 22-20 12-21 22-20.
Korea’s Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan powered their way past Canada Open champions Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa 21-12 21-15 to earn a second round against Japan’s Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao.
Yoo/Chang in Round 2
Mixed Doubles No.6 seeds Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock were shown the door by Korea’s Shin Baek Choel/Chae Yoo Jung 21-9 21-15. Korea had a good day in Mixed Doubles, with Yoo Yeon Seong/Chang Ye Na outplaying No.7 seeds Lu Kai/Huang Yaqiong 17-21 21-18 21-16.
All the other fancied pairs, including Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei (China, 1); Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin (China, 3); Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na (Korea, 5) and Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto (Indonesia, 8) made it comfortably.
Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah set up an intriguing second round against Jordan and Susanto.