If Ratchanok Intanon’s fantastic performance at the Barclay Card Arena, beating current Olympic champion Carolina Marin in a reversal of last year’s event wasn’t enough, King Lin Dan followed that by getting his own revenger against Viktor Axelsen for his loss to the Dane in their last match, at the Rio Olympic Games.
By Tarek Hafi, Badzine Correspondent live from Birmingham. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)
It would be a lie, if we dared to say this was not the most anticipated match of the day. Indeed, Lin Dan and Viktor Axelsen (pictured top) proved we were right to have high expectations for this quarter-final as both titans played some tremendous rallies throughout the match.
Super Dan had much to think about as he was about to face the one who had prevented him from obtaining another medal at the Olympics but still, he offered a poor performance in the first game, obviously not fully concentrating, as is clearly necessary when playing the sharp Dane. It was a mistake quickly forgiven as he came back into the game to pull out some of his very best and please the whole crowd, who could fully admire the nobility of the best player badminton has ever seen as the Chinese superstar eventually sealed the encounter in sixty-nine minutes.
“It was a great match. However, in the first game I didn’t play well at all, had a very slow start, but from the second onward, my movement was faster and much better,” analysed the former Olympic Champion.
Despite his age, Lin Dan (pictured above) shows once more his unlimited abilities, which are going to be again displayed tomorrow against his teammate Shi Yuqi: “I am proud with the way I am still able to compete at this level at my age, and concerning Yuqi, he is a brilliant youngster. It will certainly be a good match,” added the former world number before rushing back to his hotel and get a well-deserved rest.
Two of the most gifted players exhibited their vast repertoire of shots in front of an entertained crowd. Thailand’s marvel Ratchanok Intanon (pictured) proved once more she clearly had an edge over Spain’s Carolina Marin, as she scored no fewer than ten points in a row, to win her quarter-final match over the Spaniard, whose only win in their rivalry came at last year’s quarter-finals in Birmingham.
“Carolina and I played very well today. The end was only about mental abilities and dealing with the pressure. Anticipation became the key of the match,” commented Ratchanok after her 22-20, 13-21, 21-18 win.
Obviously very disappointed, Carolina Marin took it all on herself: “I don’t know what happened. I am very angry at myself. I was controlling the match and I just lost focus and made lots of unfortunate errors. I will have to work on these things.”
Korea scored two excellent wins thanks to their very reliable women’s doubles. Each of the Korean pairs had accounted for two Superseries finals and one title this past autumn but all four ladies are playing in an All England semi-final for the first time, as they make their 2017 individual tournament debut.
First Rio bronze medallists Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan (pictured) took good care of Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto in straight games. The Japanese were riding high after opening their week with a second straight win over Superseries Finals winners Chen/Jia but they never recovered from letting slip their 4-0 lead in the second game against the Koreans.
“We played this pair not so long ago so we knew what to do from the beginning. We analysed all the mistakes we made the last time and managed to correct them,” said a delighted Jung Kyung Eun after her match.
A few matches afterward, Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee (pictured) stepped on court to face China’s famous twins, Luo Ying and Luo Yu. As happened with Intanon, this was an opponent the Koreans had met last year in the same tournament and at the same stage, but with a different ending this time. One key difference was that the Koreans had beaten the twins twice since last March and this time, they clearly left no chances to the Chinese, as they concluded the encounter with a straight-game win 21-17 21-8
“Last year, I had an injury that prevented me from playing my best, but this time we came prepared physically and mentally,” said Chang Ye Na, excited to reach the semis in the most prestigious Superseries.
“It’s my very first semi-final here and I can’t be happier. We will meet another Chinese pair tomorrow, but we will make sure to reach the final on Sunday,” concluded the twenty-seven year-old Seoul-born player.
The four ladies will attempt to set up an all-Korean final but the women’s doubles is the only discipline where a Sunday battle between team-mates is still a possibility. China has two semi-finalists in both men’s singles and doubles, but like Lin Dan and Shi Yuqi, the two men’s doubles pairs from China will meet each other on Saturday.