DENMARK OPEN 2016 QF – Leverdez beats world #1

World #38 Brice Leverdez caused the upset of the week at the Denmark Open, beating two-time champion Lee Chong Wei to reach his first career Superseries semi-final. By Don Hearn.  […]

World #38 caused the upset of the week at the , beating two-time champion Lee Chong Wei to reach his first career semi-final.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Arthur Van der Velde and Yohan Nonotte / Badmintonphoto (live)

France’s Brice Leverdez (pictured) was a true underdog coming into Friday’s quarter-final at the Denmark Open in Odense.  He is ranked a full thirty-seven spots below his world #1 opponent Lee Chong Wei.  What’s more, in only the first of their previous six encounters had he managed to win a single game against the Malaysian.  While Lee had already picked up three Superseries titles, the Asian Championship, and an Olympic silver medal this year, it has been over six years since Leverdez has played in the semi-final of anything higher than a Grand Prix.

The Frenchman did not let any of that faze him, however.  He came out firing and took the first game 21-17.  After blowing two 5-point leads in the second game, he still managed to nose ahead and earn himself two match points, only to watch Lee Chong Wei step up the pace and snatch four straight points to send the match to a decider.

Leverdez looked visibly tired as he began the final game but he managed to keep the score close.  With Lee Chong Wei having opened up a 13-10 lead, the Frenchman called for medical attention and appeared to need some spray on his torso.  When play resumed, the challenger had something of a spring in his step and he soon was back in the lead.

Leverdez had to pause and stretch out his legs after an awkward landing late in the game but this time he got right back on court.  After again achieving two match points, he converted on the second to book his spot in the semis.

The power of momentum

No fewer than eight quarter-finalists in Odense on Friday were coming off major victories in their previous outings.  Japan Open winner Lee was one of the three exceptions but five more turned their momentum into victories that placed them in the semi-finals of this Superseries Premier event.

Home hopes in singles evaporated earlier in the evening when 19-year-old Anders Antonsen – after evening the match at one game apiece and sticking close up to 13-14 in the third – allowed Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (pictured above) to go on a six-point run that proved decisive.

Saensomboonsuk, whose win two weeks ago at the Thailand Open was his first ever Grand Prix Gold title, will be the one taking on Brice Leverdez on Saturday, while Korea’s Son Wan Ho and Lee Hyun Il will meet in a semi-final for the second straight time.

More disappointment for Denmark came immediately following Antonsen’s loss as Korea’s Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan showed more of the great form that gave them victory at the Korea Open.  In their quarter-final, though, the defending champions twice opened up big leads that Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl were able to close with a lot of varied placement and steep attacks.  In the end, the Koreans prevailed by both hitting hard and remaining more consistent than the Olympic silver medallists.

While the Koreans will take on Singapore Open winners Maheswari/Polii in the semis, the surprise opponents for world #1 Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi are Sapsiree Taerattanachai / Puttita Supajirakul (pictured above).  Building on their own first ever Grand Prix Gold success together, at home two weeks ago, the Thais recorded only their second ever defeat of a Chinese pair, beating the Luo twins in straight games.

Momentum was trumped by Thai spirit in the last match of the day on Court 2.  Two of the most creative men’s doubles pairs faced off together but Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo were unable to keep up that winning groove after the 4-month break since their last appearance together, when they won the Australian Open.  Instead it was the feisty Thai pairing of Bodin Issara (pictured right) and Nipitphon Puangpuapech, who won by a narrow margin, booking the first Superseries semi-final appearance of their partnership.

Marin and Tai scrape by

Carolina Marin (pictured) has been troubled so far this week by much lower-ranked players but she proved on Friday that she is fit enough to pull off her amazing comebacks against top players as well.  China’s Sun Yu had an 8-point lead in their deciding game but Marin chipped away at it and finally took the lead back at 19-18.  She let four match points go a-begging and had to save two more by Sun but she finally closed it out 27-25 after a phenomenal 95 minutes.

Not quite as long was the quarter-final between Sung Ji Hyun and Tai Tzu Ying (pictured below).  The 4th and 5th seeds are so evenly matched that their head-to-head record going into the match on Friday was a perfect 8-8, counting the final of the 2013 Universiade.

This time, Sung Ji Hyun looked set to take it in two when she was up by one game and 19-17 in the second.  However, Tai surged ahead and despite the perilously close scores of 25-23 and 23-21, Sung did not manage to earn herself even one match point opportunity and it is Tai who will take on Hong Kong’s Cheung Ngan Yi in the semi-finals.

Two hopes for Denmark

The home team’s two rays of sunshine came in the first and last matches of the day.  Defending mixed doubles champions Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na were actually the first to see their momentum fizzle as they were beaten rather quickly by Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen.

In the last match, 2010 men’s doubles champions Boe/Mogensen made quick work of Russia’s Ivanov/Sozonov and thus the former Olympic silver medallists will face off against the current silver medallists, as Goh/Tan of Malaysia also advanced.

Click here for complete quarter-final results

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 @