AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2015 R32 – Dan Under

Two second seeds and former champions at the Australian Open were shown the door at the 1st Round of the main draw. The brightest star of the sport, Lin Dan, […]

Two second seeds and former champions at the were shown the door at the 1st Round of the main draw. The brightest star of the sport, Lin Dan, relived the Athens Olympics, where he had also received top billing yet failed to clear the first hurdle.

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Sydney.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

His name was Viktor, he was a showman

Just before midnight, the world #9 Viktor Axelsen won over the defending champion Lin Dan (photo) of China after initially sliding over painfully during the first game. The 6′ 5″ Dane proved too tall an order for Lin today. The height differential became a determining factor as soon as the Chinese found cause to worry, which happened right after the final change of ends in the deciding game.

As the rubber game commenced, it was evident they had scoped out each other because of repeated shots to the same spots.  The Dane discovered that cross-court smashes to his opponent’s backhand forecourt consistently yielded immediate dividends while the Chinese kept testing the backhand down the line hallway of his opponent, which tended to produce a sitting duck.

In erasing that particular four-point deficit to level at 11-11, the sharpness of Axelsen’s smashes and the extra court distances to cover as a result suddenly made Lin anxious even though he was dealing fine with these scenarios early on in this match.  The body language and on-court antics of requesting a change of shuttle after every point was reminiscent of Lee Chong Wei when Tian Houwei pulled ahead in the decider of their 2013 Australian semi-final.

Worry compounded worry for Lin while the young Dane grew ever more patient and soon after delivered accordingly to the meaning of his first name, 19-21, 21-12, 21-15.  It was only the second time since Athens that Lin Dan had suffered a first-round defeat.

Axelsen (photo) opened up about his reaction to seeing his Australian Open draw for the first time: “I was really frustrated about it because I was #6 in the world before the Asia Championships and dropped to #9 the week after which meant I couldn’t be seeded here.”

Theirs was the last match of the day and immediately following, the young Dane inquired of Badzine, “Who am I playing tomorrow? I have no idea.”

He had been thoroughly getting into the perfect zone all day and hadn’t paid attention to his side of the draw opening up in interesting ways with only unseeded players ahead as the threat of Simon Santoso has been replaced with Xue Song, and the possibility of Son Wan Ho on Friday was snuffed out by veteran in fine form Boonsak Ponsana of Thailand.

Picked myself up

Canada’s Michelle Li (photo) also picked herself up off the floor after a first game 1-1 injury scare to ultimately show her higher ranked opponent the exit.  Similar to Axelsen, she lunged to address a shot at the net but she hurt her ankle whereas the Dane had been feeling around his hamstring.

“[Without a coach] It takes me some time to figure out the situation.  I feel like I’m always playing catch-up in a match,” Li explained. “The Japanese have strong lower body strength and they’re machines.  They just keep going.”

She knows what to expect then having removed one and another is next because Yui Hashimoto repeats her Day 1 heroine antics of last year thus extending the lack of luck suffered at the Australian Open for 2013 World Champion Ratchanok Intanon (photo).

“Last year I used to smash a lot more and since then I have toned that down and changed strategy to focus on controlling the rallies,” Hashimoto said.  Her new range brought down the seeded Thai in straight games 21-15, 21-18.

MS, WS: India versus China

The thrills of the first match were exceeded in the second encounter between India and China. China drew first blood in this evening’s singles proceedings when Wang Zhengming prevailed over Kashyap Parupalli (photo) 24-26, 21-18, 22-20, in men’s singles.

Wang agreed with Badzine’s preview: “The way I won this match was by just playing one point at a time and making sure I notice the half opportunities in the rally when they arise.  I reinforced this mindset after the first game eluded me.”  Agreeing with the tournament magazine too, the Chinese added in Cantonese, “Nowadays anyone in the top 20 can take out the next guy.”

In women’s singles, former world #1 and London Olympic silver medallist Wang Yihan received a taste of one’s own medicine as she came up against an athlete just as tall, which erases that advantage she has over almost every other opponent apart from Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun and compatriots Sun Yu and Li Xuerui.

Sindhu’s onslaught from the outset was relentlessly assertive.  Every opportunity she had she’d cut the shuttle sharply down, thus requiring Wang to stretch and depend heavily on retrieval skills more than she would normally.  Sindhu took the first game thus but let Wang back into the match upon dropping some pace and making an error of judgment in swapping dropshots for smashes.

Once lessons of temperament and strategy were remedied by both, the outcome tied again at 17-17 up to 23-all in the rubber game.  During this final deuce, it was all about bravery.  Sindhu played the net when down match point and Wang gave every ounce of energy on smashes, recalling Zhang Ning at the Beijing Olympic final’s closing moments.  Sindhu, the better one at the net, ought not to have employed the high serve at 23.  She lost it in immediately and Wang seized the advantage to ultimately convert, 18-21, 21-15, 25-23.

Second seeds bad luck in another men’s category

The equal headline match of Round 1 to Lin Dan’s fizzled out fast.  The Korean 2014 men’s doubles World Champions, in their very first appearance this year, muscled past the 2013 Champs despite the latter having acquired a Premier title in the year to date.

Shin Baek Cheol / Ko Sung Hyun’s (photo) unlikely comeback to take the first game ruffled Mohammad Ahsan deep into the next and made him overcook his trademark smashes, which in turn affected partner Hendra Setiawan’s normally effective calm composure.  With both now out of sorts, Korean victory became inevitable and eventuated 21-19, 21-15.

1st Round Upsets List

WS: Tai Tzu Ying [4th seed](TPE). Beaten by Bae Yeon Ju [WR13](KOR)
WS: Ratchanok Intanon (THA). Beaten by Yui Hashimoto (JPN).
WS: Nozomi Okuhara [WR10](JPN). Beaten by Michelle Li [WR16](CAN)

MS: Lin Dan [2nd seed](CHN). Beaten by Viktor Axelsen [WR9](DEN).
MS: Son Wan Ho [5th seed](KOR). Beaten by Boonsak Ponsana [WR30](THA).
MS: Tommy Sugiarto [1x SS Winner, WR11](INA) Beaten by Brice Leverdez [WR31](FRA).
MS: Kenichi Tago [5x SS runner-up, WR18](JPN). Beaten by Rajiv Ouseph [WR29](ENG).

WD: Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan [7th seed](KOR). Beaten by Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito [WR15](JPN)
WD: Eefje Muskens / Selena Piek [8th seed](NED). Beaten by Go Ah Ra / Yoo Hae Won [WR20](KOR)

MD: Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan [2nd seed](INA). Beaten by Ko Sung Hyun / Shin Baek Cheol [WR11](KOR)
MD: Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang [8th seed](KOR). Beaten by Hirokatsu Hashimoto / Noriyasu Hirata [WR10](JPN)

1st Round Near Death Experiences

XD: Ma Jin / Xu Chen [1st seed](CHN) def Selena Piek / Jacco Arends [WR16](NED) 15-21, 21-19, 21-18
XD: Christinna Pedersen / Joachim Fischer Nielsen [3rd seed](DEN) def Puspita Richi Dili / Riky Widianto [WR9](INA) 16-21, 23-21, 21-10
MS: Srikanth Kidambi [4th seed](IND) def Hans Kristian Vittinghus [WR14](DEN) 14-21, 21-8, 22-20
MS: Wang Zhengming [6th seed](CHN) def Kashyap Parupalli [WR13](IND) 24-26, 21-18, 22-20
WS: Wang Yihan [8th seed](CHN) def PV Sindhu [WR12](IND) 18-21, 21-15, 25-23

Click here for complete Wednesday results

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @