WORLDS 2013 Day 2 – Difficult time for mixed 1st seeds in 1st match

Mixed doubles top seeds Xu/Ma found the going tough in their opening match at the Wang Lao Ji BWF World Badminton Championships against the unseeded Danes. By Renee Yang and […]

Mixed doubles top seeds Xu/Ma found the going tough in their opening match at the Wang Lao Ji BWF World Badminton Championships against the unseeded Danes.

By Renee Yang and Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondents live in Guangzhou.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Mixed doubles 1st seeds Xu Chen / Ma Jin surely did not imagine they would face such difficult times in the World Championship second round against Danish pair Mads Pieler Kolding / Kamilla Rytter Juhl.  Even if, for the women, it was a battle of former World Champions, the Chinese were heavy favourites.  The Danes were first paired together at last year’s Dutch Open after Kamilla’s former partner Thomas Laybourn retired following the London Olympic Games but there was some uncertainty as these two pairs had not met each other before.

Xu/Ma had a very good beginning and led 11-7 at the 1st game interval, but the Danes changed their tactics on serve and receive and became more aggressive in the first three shots.  They narrowed the gap to 11-13 and then got 5 points in a row, then led all the way to get the first game in 21-18 .

The 2nd game seemed to be a replay of the first game but the winner changed, the Danes outscored until interval while Xu/Ma improved the quality of serve with accurate placement.  They defused the Danes’ threatening in front of the net and kept clamping down on their opponents by attacking play, and finally forced it to a rubber game.

In the deciding game, both pairs were still competing at the net, and it launched an intense seesaw battle but when it came to the crucial moment, the Chinese players showed they were mentally tougher and had the stamina while the Danes started to make errors under the pressure.  The Chinese got 7 points in a row to beat the Danes 21- 13.

“I had some problems mentally and the way of play in the first game and made so many unforced errors,” Xu Chen admitted in the post-match interview.  “Ma Jin kept encouraging me after the first game and we changed our tactics of serve by better placement to control our opponents.”

The Chinese pair also mentioned their Danish opponents, saying that as they are probably the tallest pair in mixed doubles, their height and reach give them advantages on court that allow them to hit the shuttle at such angles and with such force that their opponents feel very uncomfortable.

In the 2011 World Championship event in London, Xu/Ma retired during the final due to injury.  “It was regrettable that we retired two years back, and I’ve been paired with Ma jin for two years.  I hope we can grasp the chance this time and cherish every match we play in this event,” said Xu.

For their part, the Danes did their best to give their reflections on the missed opportunity despite the disappointment.

When asked to compare her new partnership to her 2010 World Championship pairing, Kamilla Rytter Juhl said, “With Thomas, we played a little more like regular doubles but now it’s really good to have Mads at the back line because he has a really good attack so now, we play more mixed doubles style.

“I don’t know if Xu/Ma are getting better.  They’re just really good and have been for a long time.

“I think one thing that we were able to use today was that Xu Chen was getting nervous a little and he clearly wasn’t comfortable on court.  That was good for us and that’s one of the reasons we played as well as we did.

“I think we did everything we could today but we made too many easy mistakes.  Maybe it’s because we knew we were about to win.  It’s difficult to say right now.  Now, we are just thinking that we lost and we are both very disappointed but it’s also in some ways a good match.”

“Maybe in a couple of days, we will be able to think about the good things.  Once we’ve seen the video, we will know what we’ve learned from this experience but for now it’s just disappointing that we lost,” added Mads Pieler Kolding.

While China saw 3 pairs all make it to the round of 16, including Tao Jiaming / Tang Jinhua – who went in at the expense of seeded compatriots Qiu/Bao – Denmark is down to one as Anders Kristiansen / Julie Houmann, the 13th seeds, fell to Japan’s Kenichi Hayakawa / Misaki Matsutomo.

The two Japanese players are best known, of course, for their prowess in level doubles, where each is ranked in the world’s top 4 but both have now reached the round of 16 in mixed before even taking to the court with their regular doubles partners.

After their match, Hayakawa said, “It is not so much that we are excited about having some success in mixed doubles.  This Danish pair, although seeded, also lost to a lower-ranked Japanese pair at the Japan Open last year so I think that gave us some confidence.

“We didn’t really come in with any special strategy but I think the key was that we were faster than our opponents and we could use that to keep them confused.”

Japan’s Head Coach Park Joo Bong added, “None of the seeded players had a first-round match so you can see how that has left them struggling against the pairs that did play yesterday.  Even the #1 seeds lost their first game.

In all, nearly half the seeded pairs went down in Round two action here at Tianhe Gymnasium in Guangzhou.  Seeds in women’s singles and women’s and men’s doubles see first action on Wednesday.

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