INDIA OPEN 2016 R16 – Chong Wei Nan battle caps off day of upsets

Lee Chong Wei was one of two top seeds who fell at the second hurdle in the India Open, as men’s singles accounted for five of the nine seeded losers […]

Lee Chong Wei was one of two top seeds who fell at the second hurdle in the , as men’s singles accounted for five of the nine seeded losers on Thursday in Delhi.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live from Delhi)

Lee Chong Wei, Lin Dan, Jan Jorgensen, Chou Tien Chen, Tian Houwei: and those are just the names of the seeded upset victims from just one discipline on Day 3 of the India Open .  Of the perpetrators, Hong Kong’s Wei Nan (pictured top) could end up being the happiest, although he was not one to give his elation to the cameras.  Upon beating Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei, a smile and a toss of the racquet were the external signs of his jubilation.

Wei Nan has perhaps the most to gain from performing well in the coming weeks.  Fellow Thursday giant-killers Son Wan Ho (pictured) and Marc Zwiebler – who beat All England finalists Lin Dan and Tian Houwei respectively – are already virtually assured of qualifying for the Rio Olympics.  Meanwhile, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and Xue Song, who beat Chou and Jorgensen respectively, are currently tens of thousands of points off the pace of their top two team-mates.

Wei Nan, in contrast, is only a few thousand points behind compatriots Ng Ka Long and Hu Yun, both of whom are already out of the in India.  He also began the week with one foot barely inside the top 16, where he needs to be to even have a chance of being picked as one of two Hong Kong qualifiers for Rio.   In fact, he was just four points ahead of fellow Rio hopeful Lee Dong Keun but the tall Hong Kong veteran should be in a much more comfortable position by the time he begins his next campaign in Kuala Lumpur.

The singles upsets began on Thursday with the win by Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (pictured).  He beat Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen in two quick games to earn a quarter-final showdown with Kento Momota, the highest remaining seed in the men’s singles draw.  Unfortunately, for Vittinghus, Denmark is one of the three teams that currently has three players in the top 16 and he is third, 20,000 points behind Viktor Axelsen, who also advanced to the quarter-finals in Delhi.

“It’s obvious that I played really well,” said Vittinghus on his Facebook page.  “My court coverage was great, defence was working perfectly and I had a lot of success taking control of the game for most parts of the match. I also reacted the way I wanted to in the periods where he was trying hard to fight back. Needless to say, I’m super happy about that.

“In all fairness, Chou seemed a little tired today as well. He played a really long match last night and I had much more time to recover as I played early yesterday, but I’ll still take all the positives with me from this match!”

Speaking of 3rd men, Tian Houwei of China was again involved in one of the closest matches of the day.  But unlike his photo-finish victory over defending champion Srikanth Kidambi on Wednesday, this time it was Tian who had to concede victory after he and Marc Zwiebler traded match points in the deciding game of their 66-minute battle.

The mixed doubles draw was fraught with withdrawals before the tournament began and two more upsets on Thursday have left only three seeds there as well.  Bodin Issara and Savitree Amitrapai, the latest addition to the list of tentative Rio qualifiers, scored their second win this year over Korea’s hapless Shin/Chae, whose chances of reaching the top 8 are getting slimmer by the week.

Another #9 pair mounting a campaign to sneak into the top 8 by May experienced success on Thursday.  Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao (pictured) were overjoyed with their performance as they sent former champion Jung Kyung Eun and her world #6 partner Shin Seung Chan packing.  Chinese teenager Chen Qingchen continues her march in both disciplines but in the women’s doubles quarter-finals, she and Jia Yifan face the formidable Pedersen/Rytter Juhl of Denmark.

Men’s doubles is without its top seed as Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (pictured bottom) took out Chai Biao / Hong Wei in three close games.  The quarter-finals features three pairs of pairs who are jockeying for position in the Rio race.  Gideon and Sukamuljo may be too far outside the top 8 to have a chance but Ko/Shin and Kim/Kim of Korea are still duelling to be the second Korean pair while Chen/Wang still have a chance of reeling in Lee/Tsai to become Chinese Taipei’s Olympic pair.

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Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net