CHINA OPEN 2013 QF – When your all just isn’t enough…

The Victor China Open quarter-finals were particularly taxing for several players, such as Ratchanok Intanon and Liew Daren, among the many who conceded rather one-sided final games. By Kira Rin.  […]

The Victor quarter-finals were particularly taxing for several players, such as Ratchanok Intanon and Liew Daren, among the many who conceded rather one-sided final games.

By Kira Rin.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Quarter-finals day at the Victor China Open saw the players pushing human boundaries to stake a claim to the fat purse that awaited the winner.  For some, they managed to overcome the difficult hurdles, for others, their bodies gave out at the critical moment, forcing them into defeat.

One of the most promising matches on the day pitted the reigning Asian Games champion against the reigning World Champion.  Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand (pictured) scored her only career victory against Wang Shixian at this very tournament two years ago but this is not where she would earn her first title since the Worlds as Wang was too much for her on Friday in Shanghai.

To counter Ratchanok’s impressive speed and offense, Wang Shixian (pictured) played a precision game, attempting to drain Ratchanok’s stamina reserves.  Ratchanok was still the first to reach 20 with her speed, but Wang’s defensive coverage saw her erasing 4 game points before converting her first game point opportunity with a risky net play.

The defensive stratagem paid off, as without her stamina, Ratchanok was unable to concentrate to hit her shuttle accurately.  Wang steadily kept on the pressure, pulling a 12-point lead, before finishing the game with a 10-point margin.

Earlier on the same court, Malaysia’s Liew Daren had even more dismal luck in his second game against defending champion Chen Long (pictured below).  Daren fought an impressive battle against Chen, proving his ability to reach the top levels of badminton.  At times he would pull off near impossible defensive plays from point-blank net kills and drives, and also pulled his own emulation of Lee Chong Wei’s crosscourt smash to gather points.  Being wary of Daren’s evolution during the match, Chen Long played a careful game to test the limits his opponent could go to.

Unfortunately, playing such high level of badminton can also place high stress on the joints and muscles of the body.  This was no exception for Daren, as he found his thigh gradually cramping up from the stress.  Even with the doctor treating his thigh at the second game interval, Daren found the stress too great to bear and was forced to retire.

leaders Misaki Matsumoto and Ayaka Takahashi fell to the highly experienced Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei, but not without a fight as they fought tooth and nail with impressive defense and counter attacks to gain the first game.  However, this was still no match for Zhao and Tian’s constant rallying as they seemingly returned every shot the Japanese pair could throw at them.

Within the middle kingdom, a battle of northern and southern visitors ensued as Malaysia’s Hoon Thien How and Tan Wee Kiong faced off Russia’s Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov.  While it was no easy task playing against a pair with great stamina reserves, with even one of the players doubling singles duty at the tournament, the Malaysians took it in their stride.  With Hoon’s expert offensive coverage, Tan Wee Kiong was even able to pull a daring racquet swap and hit home one point with a single swing of his newly-acquired racquet.

Nervousness did set in as the Malaysians saw the Russians keeping pace with them.  A series of unforced errors led to a third and deciding game.  Vladimir dug into his reserves to bring out his smashing power from the start, even having to get his finger treated and bandaged from the stress of a smashing barrage.  Hoon and Tan, however, showed their authority as masters of stamina, easily countering the barrage and gradually lengthened the gap to close out the match in their favour.

Home crowd support paid off for the pair of Bao Yixin and Zhong Qianxin, as they were put to test by the world #2 Danes Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl.  Despite dropping the opening game, the pair drew on the expectations of fans around them and sought to answer it with their rallying to take home the match to the satisfaction of the Chinese spectators.

Most of the major upsets happened away from the gaze of the television cameras.  First, Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (pictured) of Thailand scored her first ever win over 2011 champion Wang Yihan.  Porntip is closing in on a third Superseries final in just over 2 months but she is still chasing her first Superseries title at an event with Chinese participation.

On Court 3, there was a string of three singles upsets, beginning with Chong Wei Feng (pictured) offing Indonesia’s Sony Dwi Kuncoro to book his second consecutive China Open semi-final against Chen Long of China, who dumped the Malaysian rather unceremoniously from last autumn’s final four.

Next, it was Japan’s Kento Momota booking, at the tender age of 19, his first ever Superseries semi-final appearance with a win over Hong Kong’s Hu Yun.  Following that was Han Li beating world #5 Sung Ji Hyun for the second time this autumn on Chinese soil.

In addition to a portion of the US$350,000 total prize money in Shanghai, many players are still vying to be in the top 8 of the Superseries standings, which would qualify them to play for the half million at stake in Kuala Lumpur next month.  Only about a half dozen of the China Open semi-finalists have clinched their berths in the Superseries Finals.

Click here for complete quarter-final results

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