By Timothy Chan, Badzine Correspondent, reporting live from Singapore. Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)
The 6000-plus badminton fans who turned out at Singapore Indoor Stadium for Friday’s quarter-finals were treated to a series of exciting and high standard badminton matches, the best of the night for local fans being the performance of the last Singapore shuttler in action, which made it all worthwhile for them to spend their “TGIF” afternoon and evening at the Li-Ning Singapore Open.
World #49 Xing Aiying (pictured) was the last hope to keep the Singapore flag flying at Saturday’s semi-finals, after women’s doubles Yao Lei / Shinta super-narrowly lost to Miyuki Maeda / Satoko Suetsuna of Japan.
After taking the first game easily, Aiying had to struggle really hard in the second game, at one point even trailing Yip at 12-18, before she finally levelled it at 19-all. The match then seesawed with score reaching 20-20, followed by 21-21.
It was at this stage that one local fan shouted loudly to Aiying in Mandarin, “Stay cool and be steady!” Perhaps this loud encouraging cheer had some psychological effect upon Aiying that helped her ultimately manage to pull through this second game, stopping Yip from going into the rubber, with the match-point score at 23-21.
When asked about the big difference of achievement between Indonesia Open and Singapore Open, whereby she crashed out at the qualifying stage of the Indonesia Open, Aiying replied it is all about chance and the luck of the draw. At the Singapore Open, the draw was good for her and she also took her chance well when given the opportunity to play.
“I came into the match determined to learn from my previous shortcomings and fulfill my potential,” said Aiying. “I felt better and better with each passing match at the tournament and I have also learnt to study and assess my opponents so that I can adjust my own game accordingly to suit the tactics.”
Her coach, Luan Ching added, “I am very pleased with Aiying’s performance tonight as she was excellent defensively in absorbing her opponent’s attacks before turning on into the offensive. She kept the flow and pace of her own game well and smoothly throughout the match.
“I am confident that Aiying will not disappoint the Singapore crowd in her semi-final match tomorrow. She will persevere and come away with a result!”
Let’s hope that more Singapore supporters will turn up tomorrow (2pm) to cheer her on as she embarks on this big challenge to book a place in Sunday’s final. Besides unseeded Xing Aiying, the rest of the women’s singles semi-finals is on seed. Xing has simply assumed the spot left vacant by the would-be top seed, Jiang Yanjiao, who did a last minute pull-out from the tournament.
Fourth seed Cheng Shao Chieh of Chinese Taipei beat seventh seed Sayaka Sato easily 21-15, 21-8 in just 30 minutes. Third seed Sung Ji Hyun (pictured) of Korea who was the first player to progress to the semi-finals, beat Eriko Hirose of Japan 21-14,
10-21, 21-13 in a sixty-four minute-long tussle.
Sung will meet second seed Juliane Schenk, who nearly lost to Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand. Having won 21-19 in the first game but lost the second game 9-21, Juliane was on the verge of losing the third game, trailing at 17-19, but made a great comeback to secure her victory at 21-19.
Viktor tastes victory, Europe staying alive for men’s singles title
Victory was the best thing that youngster Viktor Axelsen (pictured) of Denmark could taste for the night when he fought hard physically and mentally to overcome the strong challenge from the more experienced Sony Kuncoro of Indonesia. With this victory, Viktor became the only other European player to be still around playing in the semi-finals, after Juliane Schenk of Germany made it to the semi-finals.
“I did not start well in the first game, playing quite sluggishly and told myself to stay cool, which paid dividends, enabling me to win narrowly,” said Viktor. “The second game was a big mental challenge for me. I was initially nervous but continued to stay cool to play better and win.”
The 2010 World Junior Champion will meet his 2008 predecessor Wang Zhengming (pictured) of China, who beat Chong Wei Feng easily 21-12, 22-20. Zhengming will go into Saturday’s match with a psychological advantage, having beaten Viktor before in last year’s Singapore Open en route to a semi-final finish, which he hopes to improve on this year.
“All players making it to the semi-finals will be strong and tough opponents. I hope to win tomorrow to go into the final,” said Wang.
Sixth seed Nguyen Tien Minh of Vietnam was the first player to progress to the semi-final. He beat Liew Daren of Malaysia 14-21, 21-11, 21-13 in almost an hour. It was the fourth time that Daren was playing Tien Minh. Having lost to Nguyen in the previous three meetings, Daren failed to register his first win against him and was stopped from progressing to the semi-finals.
Nguyen will meet unseeded former champion Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand. In the quarters, Boonsak took one hour and four minutes to beat Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka of Indonesia 21-23, 21-7, 21-8.