With Dubai on their minds, Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen escaped the jaws of defeat to make the second round of the Thaihot China Open today.
The Danes are ninth in the Destination Dubai Rankings in Men’s Doubles and a strong showing in Fuzhou will provide a cushion over their closest competition before the MetLife BWF World Superseries circuit moves to its final stop in Hong Kong next week. Aware of the implications of today’s match, the Danes climbed back from the dead, saving five match points before converting their first, against Russians Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov, and then burst into an emotional celebration.
“It was a very tough match today obviously and I said to Anders when the final point came our way that maybe this is maybe the biggest victory we’ve ever had,” chuckled Astrup, after they came through 9-21 23-21 24-22.
“Not because of the result but the meaning of it. We’re fighting very hard to reach the Dubai World Superseries Finals. This was an important step. We’re not there yet and we’re not satisfied. I was very nervous today, and it was so tough today when we lost the first game at 9. Mentally it was an important victory. It has been tight between us always and it was again today. I’m just very very relieved.”
After a comfortable first game win, Ivanov and Sozonov had it going their way at the end of the second, but the Danes (featured image) hung in, saved a match point, and shot ahead. The decider was a near-repeat of the second, with the Russians failing to convert four more match points.
“We were in the semi-finals in France and Indonesia and we won the Thomas Cup — it’s been our best year so far and we’re very happy to follow up on those results,” added Astrup.
China had a rough day in doubles, with their top contenders in Men’s Doubles and Women’s Doubles falling early, both to Japanese opposition. While Men’s Doubles third seeds Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen were flat against Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi (21-17 21-15), Women’s Doubles rising stars Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan fell apart despite having a substantial lead against Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto.
Chen/Jia were 17-13 in the third game but Jia cracked first, and even the normally unperturbable Chen followed suit, allowing the Japanese eight straight points: 21-19 9-21 21-17.
Also crashing out early were Men’s Doubles Olympic silver medallists Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong to China’s new combination Zhang Nan/Liu Cheng, 19-21 21-16 24-22 in 75 minutes.
China, having to contend with a few withdrawals and defeats, have only two pairs left in Women’s Doubles: Huang Dongping/Li Yinhui and Luo Ying/Luo Yu.
Nehwal ‘Hungry’ After Comeback
China Open 2014 Women’s Singles champion Saina Nehwal returned to competition after a surgery for a knee injury that she suffered at the Rio Olympics in August. Nehwal, initially sluggish and tentative against Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, found her rhythm in the second game, but that wasn’t enough to prevent her from crashing out 21-16 19-21 21-14.
Despite the loss, Nehwal said she was happy with the way she’d played:
“I just got four weeks (of training), and I had to start from zero,” said Nehwal. “I’m happy I could go three games. I was struggling to move in the first game. If you’re playing after three months, you can’t really adjust to the movement. In the second and third I got into the match, but I lost my stamina.
“I’m feeling good. The surgery was tough emotionally, taking time out and doing rehab. It was a new experience. It’s never happened, because surgery is a big thing, and everyone’s scared of doing surgery. I had an emotional moment as well when I was going into surgery.
“I’m happy my improvement is so good. Mentally, I’m relaxed and happy to be back and hungry.”
Buranaprasertsuk takes on the in-form He Bingjiao, winner of two Superseries this season. He, though, appeared to be bothered by a knee problem as she struggled to a three-game win over Chinese compatriot Zhang Yiman after recovering from a 2-11 deficit in the second.
Nehwal’s compatriot PV Sindhu progressed, setting up a second round with USA’s Beiwen Zhang, who eased past Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Ya Ching.
Top seed Carolina Marin (Spain) was untroubled by Chinese qualifier Ji Shuting (21-18 21-15), but second seed Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand) retired early in her first round against Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi due to injury.
Yonex Denmark Open champion Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Thailand) and sixth seed Son Wan Ho (Korea) were the prominent Men’s Singles casualties on the day. The Thai offered little resistance to Japan’s Takuma Ueda (21-14 21-13) while Son went the distance against Hong Kong’s Wei Nan before falling 21-16 21-23 21-15.
India’s HS Prannoy powered past Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long in a surprisingly one-sided match, 21-13 21-13, while his compatriot Ajay Jayaram had a tougher battle against Chinese qualifier Zhu Siyuan, coming through 21-19 20-22 21-17.
Yonex French Open champion Shi Yuqi set up a second round clash with compatriot and Olympic champion Chen Long after getting past qualifier Zhao Jun Peng in straight games.