ALL ENGLAND QF – Ng Ka Long’s rebirth?

Former top ten player Ng Ka Long bounces back from several months of disappointment with a strong push into the All England quarter-finals, while Japan’s Sonoda and Kamura continue their […]

Former top ten player Ng Ka Long bounces back from several months of disappointment with a strong push into the quarter-finals, while Japan’s Sonoda and Kamura continue their tremendous form.

By Tarek Hafi, Badzine Correspondent live in Birmingham.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long (pictured) is finally enjoying some success on the international circuit after spending several months struggling to get past the early stages in major tournament.  He has never been beyond the second round at the All England, but he made sure to upgrade his All England status.

Ng Ka Long looked for every opportunity to defeat Indonesian stalwart Tommy Sugiarto (pictured below).  Despite losing the first game 16-21, the Hong Kong player quickly turned things around.

I made too many mistakes in the first game, so I just told myself to stay calm and focused,” said Ng Ka Long after the match.

That mission completed, he managed to regain his stability and outplay his Indonesian opponent.

Although I was leading throughout the whole final game, he came up twice and came close to me ing the so I told myself to remain calm and focus on my strategy,” added the number Hong Kong player, right after sealing his victory over Sugiarto.

I am very excited right now as this is the first time I can enter the semi-final at the All England so I’m very happy now.  I haven’t played well recently and it’s the first time I’m entering the semi-final at the -level in almost a year and a half so it means so much for me.  Now I just hope I can enter the final and even bring the title home,” concluded Ng Ka Long, before starting his semi-final quest against none other than the in-form world #1 Kento Momota.

Japan’s Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda (pictured) proved once more their excellent shape to the world, neutralizing China’s rising pair of Zhou Haodong and Han Chengkai in straight games.  The Japanese pair’s extremely fast and aggressive pace left no chance to the Chinese youngsters to counter-attack their opponent’s game.

This tournament has a long history.  Everyone wishes to win here.  If we can win it will be magical, but the mere fact that we have the chance to play at this level is already a wonderful thing, so we just wish to enjoy it,” commented Takeshi Kamura.  “The All England Championships is very special to us, so we want to give it our best.  So far we have been able to play well, and we also certainly enjoy playing here.

The Japanese duo took only thirty-six minutes to grab their semi-final ticket 21-12, 21-17.  Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda have now been tipped as the favourites for the crown in Birmingham, but before they can ascend to the top of the podium, the former World Champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan will be in their way, in the final four.

A few minutes after the win by the world #3, Malaysia’s Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik (pictured) displayed some fantastic badminton against China’s last men standing in the men’s doubles draw.  Brushing aside former World Champions Zhang Nan and Liu Cheng 21-12 in their deciding game, the Malaysians reached the All England semi-final for the very first time, insisting on their status as belonging to the tremendous new generation of young players on their team.  The duo’s previous best result was in January, when they reached a Super 500 semi-final for the first time.

Former World Champion Nozomi Okuhara (pictured below) took one more step toward reclaiming the All England title she won 3 years ago.  She swept away the chances of 2012 winner Li Xuerui to reach once more the top of the world’s badminton elite.  The Japanese wonder, as always, appeared extremely determined to come out as the winner as she often reminds journalists that to reach the semi-final is good but it’s definitely “not good enough”.

The Japanese player showed some incredible court covering, despite some lethal attacks from her Chinese opponent.  The world #2 finished off her quarter-final match in a bit more than half an hour 21-17, 21-14.

The biggest difference was that her speed was pretty down in the second game, and I remained patient enough to win,” analyzed Nozomi Okuhara after her win.

Li Xuerui, meanwhile, showed to the world that she was close to reaching her former level, after struggling to come back from a severe knee injury, that struck her at the worst time possible for a player, during the semi-final of the Rio Olympic games.  In fact, it was that misfortune that denied her the opportunity to challenge Okuhara for the Olympic bronze.

Still, the player-soldier that is Li Xuerui certainly never gave up her dream to come back to the highest stage possible: “After I got injured I haven’t been able to play these top players for nearly two years, so for me it’s a good opportunity to get used to their speed and their way of attacking,” said Li Xuerui after her quarter-final loss.

Click here for complete quarter-final results

About Tarek Hafi