OLYMPICS MS QF – Big trouble for China

While favourites Lee Chong Wei and Viktor Axelsen cruised smoothly to the semi-finals, team China was forced to deal with a handful before stepping forward.  By Kira Rin. Photos: Yves […]

While favourites Lee Chong Wei and Viktor Axelsen cruised smoothly to the semi-finals, team China was forced to deal with a handful before stepping forward.

 By Kira Rin. Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

Challenge? What challenge?

When playing against a player who was the first ever to get a correct line challenge, one would do well to ensure that their own line judgment was up to the mark. This wasn’t the case for Chou Tien Chen (photo), who wasted his 2 challenges on shuttles that landed obviously far from the line, prompting Lee Chong Wei to crack a smile at the futility.

Lee ensured a total lock-down of Chou’s shots, converting almost every one of them into a set-up for his finishing smashes. Chou would gradually get wiser to the set-ups and attempt to negate them to form smash winners of his own. However, Lee, renowned for his defensive game, would force Chou to fire off multiple barrages of smashes for each point. The lethal combination of defensive coverage and precise smashing saw Lee wrap up the match with the biggest point difference, ceding only 24 points in total.

Lin Dan’s jumpscare

Ceding only 6 points in the first game, Lin Dan (photo) looked poised to follow Lee with 2 quick games. In response, Kidambi stepped up the pace, leaping towards the back to fire off quick smashes to the sidelines. Caught unprepared with the sudden change in pace, Lin Dan found out the hard way that his diving coverage was not enough to catch up with Kidambi’s pace, with his racquet often just a few centimetres short of the shuttle.

Having taken a whole game to observe Kidambi, Lin Dan was more than ready to match pace, responding with a controlling defensive game in the decider designed to anticipate Kidambi’s smashing lines. Though for a moment, Kidambi looked poised to upset with his offensive play, his smashes could not thoroughly punch through Lin’s shield, with the great man set to once again meet his long-time rival and friend, in a semi-final repeat of the last two Olympic finals.

Son of Korea pushes China’s dragon to the limits

Having watched Lin Dan’s momentary struggle, Chen Long (photo) knew the importance of striking like fire and was quick to take the first game advantage with a speedy pace off the bat. Not one to be shaken by a one-game disadvantage, the ever so calm Son maintained his composure, coming up with a game plan to strike back. With Chen targeting Son’s far backhand corner, Son responded with level backhand drives to continue the rally, keeping the points level. Patient pushing rewarded Son with opportunities to put the shuttle to the floor and he forced a deciding game

Under the personal tutelage of Li Yong Bo during the match, Chen soon adapted the rallying style, using sudden quick shots as his main method of attack. Combined with his smashing skill and follow-up finishers, an enthusiastic Chen could not contain his delight at surmounting a difficult match on his Olympic path, grinning ear to ear and blowing kisses to the audience.

Young gun Viktor

Viktor Axelsen (photo) wrapped his match against England’s Rajiv Ouseph in record time of 40 minutes. Almost every shot to the baseline became a smash from Axelsen, with his height affording great reach and angle. A scattershot accuracy saw some smashes hit the net or land out, but it was accurate enough to keep the shuttle within bounds most of the time.

It remains to be seen if Axelsen will be able to emulate fellow Dane Poul Erik Hoyer’s success at the 2 decades ago. Axelsen has a very formidable Chen Long standing in his path, and a formidable Olympic veteran – either Lee Chong Wei or Lin Dan – will await him in the final.

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