WORLDS 2015 QF – Not so lonely at the top

Quarter-finals day at the BWF World Badminton Championships saw the top two seeds in four disciplines make it through, with the exception of Boe/Mogensen but many of these wins were […]

Quarter-finals day at the BWF World Badminton Championships saw the top two seeds in four disciplines make it through, with the exception of Boe/Mogensen but many of these wins were so hard-fought, they felt like upsets.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Jakarta.
Video: Loïc Meuriot.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

The quarter-finals of the BWF World Badminton Championships ended with three events still on track to produce on-seed finals.  But that by no means meant that the top seeds have been dominating.

The exception may be mixed doubles, where the semis are on seed and none of the teams were particularly troubled in their quarter-finals.  Men’s doubles actually saw second-seeded Boe and Mogensen lose to China’s Liu Xiaolong and Qiu Zihan, a fate that has befallen the Danes many times before.

“We were very happy because we could win this match,” said Qiu Zihan after the match, “and we really want to win this tournament.

“To be honest, our performance was quite similar to the Danes in this match.  The reason we were able to win was just that our performance was a little bit better than theirs.”

Asked if they viewed compatriots Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan as adversaries in their quest for the 2015 world title, Liu Xiaolong said, “We haven’t thought about that.  We don’t’ think about them as our opponents because we just want to concentrate on playing well in every match.”

Koreans beat thunder and lightning

The top seeds in men’s doubles, Korea’s Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong (pictured), went into the quarter-finals facing the only pair with a winning record against them, Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan of China, whose last victory over the Koreans was just last month in Chinese Taipei.

The Koreans did their best to control the rallies but still got caught so many times having to lift to Fu Haifeng’s thunder smash or leaving something too high at the net to be pounced on by the lightning-quick Zhang Nan.

Still, they kept their nerve and remained consistent, turning the shuttle on defense and finding the gaps to regain the attack and they finished the match in two games.

“We knew that this would be a tough match so we made sure that we didn’t let our concentration level drop,” said Lee Yong Dae.  “It was because we did that and  played hard until the end that we ended up with a good outcome.

“We are so happy about this so we intend to prepare well to come ready for another great match tomorrow.”

“We have played them a lot of times before and always played some good matches,” added Yoo Yeon Seong, “so it really just depends on the condition of each pair on that day and how well they maintain their concentration: we could win, we could lose, so we just have to try hard and concentrate and try to put on a good performance.”

“Actually we didn’t have that much preparation time for this tournament,” said Lee.  “We had tournaments to play in and so once that finished, we really only had about a week to prepare.

“Moreso than training, what is important is how you approach your matches and that you don’t get nervous so playing tournaments during the preparation period was actually quite helpful.  In my opinion, at the level that Yeon Seong and I have to play at, the mental aspects are really important and it’s how you react mentally from point to point and keep your concentration that counts more than physical training.

“At these , I think that to able to relax and not get nervous, I think we’ve prepared well and if we can be psychologically just as prepared for the next match, it will turn out the way we hope, too.”

“Since I didn’t participate in the domestic event last month,” said Yoo, “more than training with a shuttle, I was working out with weights and working on my fitness.  I figured that we could train intensively on court again once Yong Dae got back from the tournament so I put the priority on physical training.”

On their chemistry as a pair, Lee commented, “If you play with a partner long enough, you end up working through whatever isn’t working at first.  In my case, I find that if I worry too much about what Yeon Seong is doing and how to work together, my own game suffers.  What I do instead is just focus on doing what I can do and trust Yeon Seong will be able to adapt.”

In the women’s singles, the two top seeds may have reached the semi-finals, but both Carolina Marin and Saina Nehwal had to prevail over players who have spent far more time as world #1 than they have.  For both players, the role as the favourites meeting their Chinese challengers – Wangs Shixian and Yihan respectively – is a relatively new experience.

Saina Nehwal came into this match with, officially, a 2-9 record against Wang Yihan but that includes one match where Wang had to retire mid-game, and does not include their first meeting, in the World Junior Championship final way back in 2006, which Wang won almost four years before their first meeting on the senior stage.  She won Friday’s long, gripping match 21-19 in the decider.

“It was very special for me because the last 5 or 6 times at the World Championships, I’ve only played the Chinese in the quarter-finals,” said Saina after her win over Wang Yihan.  “The only thing I was thinking the last two days was that Wang Yihan and me, we’ve played so many matches and the record was also 9-1 and she also just won the Chinese Taipei Open.  So I was just thinking that my quarter was really a very tough quarter because I also had to play Sayaka Takahashi in the second round and then Wang Yihan.

“All the matches were really tough and today’s, after 13-9, she really got into the rhythm in the second game and she was picking up all my shots and the rallies were really fast-paced.  In the third game, I was thinking that I have to play a little bit safe and make the rallies happen because she wants quick points and I didn’t want to.  Luckily, in the last few points, I really played with a lot of patience and that produced a really good result in the end.

“Actually, I hadn’t thought about the final. The semi-finals were already very special for me.  As I said the last five or six World Championships the quarter-finals were almost like a mental block for me and I just wanted to come out of it and at least win today’s match.  Actually, I’m still thinking about today’s match and not about tomorrow’s match.

“It’s a lovely crowd.  If I’m playing in Indonesia, I feel like an Indonesian.  Even if they are supporting Indonesia, I feel they are supporting me.  I’m happy with the crowd, I love Indonesia and I’m happy with the way I play here.

On the fact that the semi-finals are with a Chinese players for the first time in 35 years, Saina said, “You can never underestimate the Chinese.  They have been producing champions for so many years.  They are out in this tournament because Wang Shixian was against Carolina and she is playing extremely well.  Wang Yihan and I are both playing very well and anybody could have won this match.  Li Xuerui I understand has been fighting an injury for the past few months and she still played very well, to three games against Sindhu.

“There have maybe been some ups and downs but I haven’t seen them losing easy matches.  They always give the fight to their opponents.  At this moment it’s still entertaining and nice to see other country’s players playing.

In the men’s singles, Chen Long won a nail-biter of a second game against Viktor Axelsen.  It went the full distance and ended on the sudden-death point at 29-all after the Dane missed out on no fewer than six game point opportunities, several of which he approached with dangerous flick serves.

The second seed, Jan Jorgensen, had the ominous task of facing down five-time champion Lin Dan.  Lin had only been beaten once in a World Championship in the last ten years but Jorgensen himself has had two victories over the Chinese legend in the past 4 years.

Despite the anticipation, this match was unexpectedly one-sided as Jorgensen ran away with both games to finish it in two.  Lin Dan explained afterward that he was disoriented by the noise and the environment in the Istora Senayan, a venue in which he has only ever won team titles.

“There is still more than half a year left in the Olympic qualifying,” said Lin Dan after the match.  “A lot of people think that I am going downhill but all I can do to prove myself is to do my best and try to qualify for the next Olympics.

Asked if he could say what his friend – and Jorgensen’s next opponent – Lee Chong Wei might need to do to win the title, Lin had an interesting response: “It seems Malaysia needs a World Champion so much but for me, winning the World Championship just means that you were better at that particular moment, nothing else.  There is nothing to fix about Lee Chong Wei: the skills, the experience, everything is the same.  It’s about how you look at the title of the World Championships.”

To view Jan Jorgensen’s post-match press conference, click below:

To view Carolina Marin’s post-match press conference, click below:

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @