INDONESIA OPEN 2012 QF – Yihan looking over her shoulder

Wang Yihan chalks up another win over Tine Baun at the 2012 Djarum Indonesia Open Superseries Premier, but is Tine getting back to her best? It looks like it and […]

Wang Yihan chalks up another win over Tine Baun at the 2012 Djarum Premier, but is Tine getting back to her best? It looks like it and just at the right time ahead of the Olympics.

By Mark Phelan.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live in Jakarta)

There is a general consensus that Wang Yihan is and has been the best and most consistent women’s singles shuttler over the past number of years. She has been pretty much an ever-present at the top of the world ranking listing since she began her first sustained impact on the scene in winning the All England in 2009.

Her main and most consistent opposition has more often than not come from her own stable mates in the Chinese national team, most notably of late the new kid on the block Li Xuerui. However today, the world number one was reminded that a certain Tine Baun is on the way back to her best and will surely have Yihan looking over her shoulder come the London Olympics.

Wang Yihan (pictured) and Baun have traded a lot of blows over the last few years and when it comes to grudge matches there is none as important in the women’s singles game than any matchup between these two greats of the modern game. Yihan has won all the last five meetings with Baun’s last win coming in the China Masters back in 2010.

The quarter-final meeting today at the Djarum Indonesian Open served to prove that come London, once again, Tine Baun (pictured) will most likely be the only European candidate that will have the firepower to stop Yihan on her march towards the top of the podium.

Today’s match was tight and tense from the outset with no more than three points separating the athletes as Wang Yihan took the opening game 21-19. The second game was even closer as The Dane began to revel in her new found confidence after finally shaking off a dogged ankle injury that has hampered and curtailed her tournament play over the past 18 months.

There was little or nothing to choose between the players and at 20-18 the Dane looked liked she had the ammunition to take the match into a deciding game. However, and probably most crucial, we now know that Yihan has become almost the complete player, and I am sure must have called on the memories of her fight back in the final of the Uber Cup only last month to tie the game 20-20. The two great players exchanged blows but at 24-24 the Chinese world number 1 found the composure to take the two points needed to advance to the semi-final.

It was to be Yihan’s day again but in a strange way it is probably Baun who will head back to Copenhagen with a smile on her face as she starts to find her touch and hit form right at the crucial time of the year as we head towards the Olympics.

Not to be outdone, Li Xuerui continued her unrelenting march to the top of the game with yet another win over Germany’s Juliane Schenk. The Chinese All England champion now has a remarkable 5-0 record over the German number 1.

In one of the biggest shocks of the day, top seeds and World Champions Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei went down to Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam in straight games in the mixed doubles quarter-finals. A definite tournament win, loss, win, loss pattern is starting to emerge as the world’s top pairing head towards the Olympics.

Finally, late in the evening, Saina Nehwal continued her Olympic preparation with an exquisite display against fellow title contender Wang Shixian of China. A much trimmed down Nehwal, who has reportedly lost 5kg as part of her Olympic preparation, dominated the opening 2 games before throwing away four match points in the second. Nehwal finally found the composure to see out the match in the deciding game 21-19. In what was a good day for India, Kashyap Parupalli (pictured) followed Nehwal into the semi-finals with a two-game win over Hans Kristian Vittinghus.

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