The men’s singles semi-finals in New Delhi were the pinnacle of awe inspiring badminton with the longer of the match ups between China and Denmark demonstrating perfectly why this sport ought never to be struck off the Olympic roster. It takes two men to create an extraordinary contest and Chen Long and Jan O Jorgensen, each the best juniors and now seniors of their countries, delivered nothing short of breathtaking brilliance.
By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)
Bittersweet great achievement
The expected historic occasion for Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen eventuated even though not the way he would have enjoyed. China’s world #2 Chen Long continues never defeated in their six showdowns, 21-15, 23-21, 21-19, however the Dane has emphatically stopped the straight games streak by proving they were equals up to 18 points apiece in the decider – not to mention at each of the three mid-game intervals too.
Jorgensen, not content with having played badminton’s longest singles rally for a match point, seems to be taking a leaf out the book of his compatriot Peter Rasmussen, the 1997 World Champion, who outlasted the longest match in badminton history to take that very title.
The New Delhi crowd applauded enthusiastically the display of extraordinarily finely controlled badminton they were being treated to. Had someone tuned in 70 minutes into the match, the court coverage and return of smash reactions from these men were not perceivably slower than another fresh paced race of this calibre. The concentration needed to remain sharp strategically at this stage was, when observed closely, waning and that is where the contest ultimately was – a mental clarity one, rather than fortitude as one might assume.
What qualities it took
There isn’t enough time to think consciously and still react quickly within a badminton match but Jorgensen demonstrated he has the ability to constantly adjust his game to the nature of the challenge at hand. Chen Long, is a very special sort of player as an opponent due to his extreme height and therefore wingspan, combined with perhaps the most crisp and efficient stroke execution of anyone such that shots come off his racquet with a minimum of backswing and maximum reaction speed. This whole package of genetic advantage and skills has made him a tremendous threat.
The Dane, starting the match on the “difficult” side of the court due to the drift in the arena, quickly rediscovered that Chen hardly needs to lean off his centre base when awaiting a smash. Immediately, the Dane computed that this match would require a lot of stroke control.
Think how easy it is for a social player to hit long or wide of a badminton court so it is the mark of a player as physically strong and with limbs that are long as is Chen that he has developed the extraordinary aptitude to control the lengths of his shots under normal circumstances let alone in the reaction time it takes to return a smash or dash across court to address a net shot of another top 10 player and play those back to the baseline with a delicate push.
Of Olympic proportions
Both men gave each other and themselves very little room for error. Was what should have been a routine rear backhand drop shot by Chen into the net which handed over to Jorgensen the second game an unforced error or forced one? It looks like the former from Chen’s camera angle but would be the latter from the Dane’s.
The height of skill, physicality, concentration and deftness of touch, both men needed to summon was illustrated best when during the point played in the third game when the Dane moved from 15 points to 16-17.
Arguably, the Dane had the tougher time overall because there were more do-or-die situations in order for him to win points and he rose to the challenges and taking the risks (of injury).
The Jorgensen-Chen match showed how unforgiving badminton is in terms of human concentration required. Two points is all the margin there is between winning or saving oneself from defeat in a close match, with no rest conceivably up to 19 points earlier.
Jorgensen found a way of conquering Chen Long which requires him to have at least have the touch on this day so as to move the Chinese man around before directing the offense at the opponent’s body during the small windows of time when their entire torsos are in perpetual motion, rather than when Chen is ready to receive smash. It is literally a tall ask but do-able.
Will Jorgensen be able to get the better of Chen? Certainly he proves he possesses the capabilities and had he been born Chinese instead of Danish you’d highly suspect he would be able to take advantage of having numerous chances to practice together and get used to the difficult variables. In short, were he to play Chen Long often this Dane would get the hang of it.
As for Chen Long, his Everest is halt his own 0-6 track record against dual Olympic gold medallist and teammate Lin Dan before the latter retires, preferably in a major tournament. In terms of current players, this world #2 has already scaled the other highest peaks.
WD: Jung Kyung Eun / Kim Ha Na (KOR) vs. Tang Yuanting / Yu Yang (CHN)
MD: Mathias Boe Carsten Mogensen (DEN)  vs. Liu Xiaolong / Qiu Zihan (CHN) 
WS: Li Xuerui (CHN)  vs. Wang Shixian (CHN) 
XD: Joachim Fischer Nielsen / Christinna Pedersen (DEN)  vs. Ko Sung Hyun / Kim Ha Na (KOR) 
MS: Lee Chong Wei (MAS)  vs. Chen Long (CHN) 
Click here for complete semi-final results