SINGAPORE OPEN 2011 QF – Yao Jie, Jia You!

34-year-old Yao Jie showed everyone today that she still has what it takes to challenge the current cream of the crop as the Dutch veteran disposed of world number 2 […]

34-year-old Yao Jie showed everyone today that she still has what it takes to challenge the current cream of the crop as the Dutch veteran disposed of world number 2 Wang Yihan 21-17, 15-21, 21-16 in the quarter-finals of the Li-Ning Singapore Super Series.

By Pearlyn Kwang and Serla Rusli, live from Singapore. Photos (live): Badmintonphoto

Having emerged triumphant in the last two events she participated in, the second-seeded Chinese was surely looking forward to claiming the crown here in Singapore to add to her growing collection of Super Series titles. Nevertheless, her more experienced opponent today put in a stellar performance to end her title race, making it the first time since last September that Wang Yihan (photo left) will not feature in at least a semi-final.

Xu Huaiwen, who was appointed Netherland’s coach in April this year, was very satisfied with Yao Jie’s performance. “She played really well today. Mentally, she was very calm, she wasn’t anxious when she was trailing or leading. Also, she was able to change tactics very quickly, and her opponent probably couldn’t respond in time.”

She added that experience also played a vital role in the result. “Yao Jie’s advantage lies in her experience, but on the flip side, because she has been playing on the circuit for so long, she has many injuries which can hamper her performance. For the young Chinese players, undoubtedly, they are very skilled, but when it comes to playing in a place like Singapore, where it is very windy, they may lack the experience to adapt, because there’s only so much you can do with solely technical skills.”

Lucky for the other Wang

Unlike Wang Yihan, compatriot and top seed Wang Shixian survived a massive scare put forth by Germany’s Juliane Schenk (photo right) to reach the semi-finals. Schenk held three match points, but failed to convert and eventually fell 17-21, 21-15, 22-20.

The 28-year-old German expressed her thoughts on the match, “Unfortunately there can only be one winner. But I thoroughly enjoyed the game as I played with all my heart. The last two points didn’t go right for me but I’m still proud of my performance today. It was filled with happiness and I enjoyed the game very much.”

Schenk had recently beaten the world number 1 in the group stages of the Sudirman Cup, and came so close to ousting her again today, prompting the media to question the German if she thought China’s women’s singles players are no longer infallible. “I think China is doing a great job, but the rest of the world is not sleeping,” remarked Schenk. “We built up our experience year by year and now we use it to challenge the younger Chinese players.”

Her Chinese opponent agreed and praised Schenk, “She is one of our main rivals. She can respond very effectively and there are many things that we must learn from her. Of course it’s good to beat them [players of other nationality] all the time, but sometimes it’s good to lose as well, to gain new perspectives to improve my game overall.”

Crowd’s favourite

Also coming close to an upset in women’s singles was Cheng Shao Chieh, who annoyed sixth seed Tine Baun quite a fair bit. Her never-say-die attitude and incredible pick-ups of Tine’s lethal shots won the crowd’s hearts, as they rallied behind her during the match. Alas, it was not to be for the gung-ho Taiwanese as Tine overpowered her eventually, booking her place against Wang Shixian in the semi-finals with a 22-24, 21-17, 21-13 victory.

Cheng said that she had no regrets though. “When I play a match, I don’t think about winning or losing. I try to enjoy the process because I think that’s the most important. Even if I win a match, I won’t feel happy if I did not enjoy the process or thought I didn’t do well. But I really enjoyed the process today, and it was an added bonus that the crowd was cheering for me.”

Lin Dan’s hard-fought quarter-finals

In the men’s singles, Super Dan had his fair share of scare as well, with Simon Santoso (photo left) stretching the reigning World Champion to three games once again. Just like their previous encounter in Korea Open Super Series in January this year, the fight ended in Lin Dan’s favour, 14-21, 21-13, 22-20.

Simon had the upper hand of the first game and secured a point for himself through a combination of attacks and net play. However, the tables were turned in the second game as Lin Dan seemed to finally get into his game. With an impressive display of deceptive shots and his incredible speed, the current Badminton Asia Champion left the Indonesian trailing throughout.

Yet the defeat in the second game did not dampen Simon’s spirit. It was impossible to tell in the final game who would eventually win the hard-fought semi-finals ticket. It was a close affair that left the audience gripping the edge of their seats, especially when Simon made a comeback and forced a deuce after trailing 15-20.

“I had wanted to beat him right from the start. At the point when I was making a comeback, I just focused on being patient with my game and played with the net more. Lin Dan became impatient in the end and made unforced errors. That’s why I was able to catch up with him,” explained Simon.

Still, in the end he narrowly missed out in reaching his third Super Series semi-finals this year.

“I do feel a bit frustrated because I was so close to beating him. However, I am satisfied with my performance today and this is the second time I have forced Lin Dan into a close fight. I was able to play different shots. I know that Lin Dan is a very fast attacking player, so I tried to break his rhythm to slow down his pace so that I could play my own game. Perhaps next time I can perform even better.”

He then continued to lay out what Super Dan’s success factors were. “I think Lin Dan is really good at winning points at critical times during a match. He is also able to keep his composure and that’s what makes him a very mature player.”

The now semi-finalist Lin Dan (photo right) commented, “Simon is a very worthy opponent. I tried to adopt a more relaxed approach at today’s game and that may have allowed me to play more freely. Badminton is not only about winning. What is important to me is about playing hard, doing my best and putting up a good show for the spectators.”

Waiting for him at the other side of the court at the semi-finals is Peter Gade who cruised through his quarter-final match against Du Pengyu in 21-15, 21-15. Peter became the only non-Chinese national to still have a share of men’s singles limelight as compatriots Chen Jin and Wang Zhengming are set to face each other in the other semi-final.

For full results, click here.

For LIVE PHOTOS of the event, click on the Facebook Page of Badmintonphoto, Official Photo Agency of BWF.

About Pearlyn Kwang