FRENCH OPEN 2017 R16 – Olympic champs out!

Two champions from Rio and one from last week were all shown the door as names like Lee Jang Mi, Anders Antonsen, and Jessica Pugh and Ben Lane hinted that […]

Two champions from Rio and one from last week were all shown the door as names like Lee Jang Mi, Anders Antonsen, and Jessica Pugh and Ben Lane hinted that they will keep popping up.

By Tarek Hafi, Badzine correspondent live in Paris.  Photos: BadmintonPhoto (live)

It was not a good day for the Rio gold medallists as Chen Long and Carolina Marin were surprisingly sent packing by younger opponents, both ready to take on a higher level of the world badminton hierarchy.  England has also discovered a new rising mixed doubles pair to follow in the name of Jessica Pugh and Ben Lane, who defeated the recent Denmark Open Premier winner Tse Ying Suet and Tang Chun Man from Hong Kong.

Chen and Marin out!

He is, certainly, a legitimate heir of all the illustrious Danish men’s singles player that have crossed the history of badminton.  Anders Antonsen (pictured right) is slowly but surely coming to light, after being crowned Danish champion and also having threatened many top ten players with his talented skills.  It is now done, the twenty year-old player fought like no one and got the best of the reigning Olympic Champion Chen Long, in a 78-minute battle.

I really don’t know what to say! We’ve stayed a long time on court, I was pushed to my limits, I am just really proud that I managed to fight and keep a consistent level throughout the whole match,” confessed the Danish youngster to the press.

Despite a 15-21 first game loss, the Dane did not lose his confidence and bounced back brilliantly, upgraded his game to fight on a same stage with the former world number one.

It’s my first time playing him, so I needed time to figure him out, adapt to his style so I am proud that I came back after losing the first game because we all know he is a very tough opponent,” before adding, “His shot quality is really good.  You have to stay patient and wait for the right opportunities, stay in the rallies and be mentally strong.”

The Dane levelled up 21-16, before concluding the encounter with a similar score 21-16 in the decider to run towards his first quarter-final at the Yonex Superseries.

Then a few matches afterwards it was Spain’s Carolina Marin (pictured right) who would be sent packing by world #27 Lee Jang Mi.  The Korean never seemed scared or intimidated against the legend that became her opponent, despite her being the Olympic gold medallist and two-time World Champion.

She’s the Olympic gold medallist and an extremely good player so I entered the court with pretty much no stress since I really had nothing to lose.  I just wanted to play my way and see what I can pull out from that,” commented Lee Jang Mi after her wonderful performance.

Indeed, the twenty-three year-old, buckled up and erased all chances to Carolina Marin to win another title in Paris.  It only took her two games, 21-18, 21-19 to create the sensation and gain a well deserved place in the last eight.

Her speed and style of play is very energetic so I knew I had to follow the same pace if I wanted to have a chance against her and luckily it worked out well for me,” finished the delighted Korean player, who is now ready to take on the titleholder China’s He Bingjiao for a place in the semis.

Hardly a household name yet, Lee Jang Mi (pictured left) is starting to change that, with semi-final appearances in both the Asian Championships and the U.S. Open Grand Prix Gold this year.  Marin is the fourth top ten player to fall to Lee this year.

Great Britain‘s future?

Speaking of names that keep popping up on the winners’ side, Great Britain may have found a pair to nurture their fantastic tradition of highly performing mixed doubles in the years to come.  Despite being only twenty years old each, Jessica Pugh and Ben Lane (pictured below) displayed incredible badminton skills and mental strength to defeat the recent Denmark Premier Superseries winner, Hong Kong’s Tse Ying Suet and Tang Chun Man.

English mixed is no longer just a question of the Adcocks.  The same week when Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith won the Dutch Open earlier this month, Pugh and Lane had reached their second Grand Prix semi-final of the year.

Now in France, in spite of a first game hastily gone to Hong Kong side, the English pair kept their shield up and perfectly counter-attacked the game of the recent Denmark Open Superseries Premier winners.

We took a game last week against them and that certainly gave us confidence that we could do it today!  It’s our first quarter-final in a Superseries, which is really nice.  It’s amazing.  We are only twenty years old so it’s fantastic for us!” confessed Ben Lane after their match.

I am really, really happy.  I can’t explain it.  We didn’t expect it, though we knew we could challenge them since we took a game from them already, and if we gave our best we knew we could potentially win it.  It’s incredible,” added the delighted Jessica Pugh.

The pair sealed their fate by grabbing the next two games 21-14, 21-16 to finish the match in just forty-eight minutes.  The young pair will now have to get through the title holders and world number one Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen (pictured bottom) from China, in a battle of 20-year-olds to decide who will take their place in the semi-finals.

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About Tarek Hafi