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China’s Chen Long Marches To Finals
World champion Chen Long began the defence of his title at the Dubai World Superseries Finals at the Hamdan Sports Complex today by delivering an authoritative performance in a 21-13, 21-13 victory over another Chinese team mate, Tian Houwei.
There was rarely much doubt about his success against Tian, Lin's late replacement after he withdrew with an injury, even though Chen thought he had not played particularly well. One feels sorry for his rivals when he thinks he has.
Chen attacked creatively, defended superbly, put points together in sequences when he needed them and looked extremely comfortable in the same arena where he triumphed last year. His performance suggested that he can more than atone for the absence of his legendary compatriot Lin Dan, and after the match he dealt with the almost inevitable questions which referred to the missing Olympic champion with tact and humour.
Then asked whether he thought Lin Dan would be missed, Chen answered: “Don’t say things like that – Lin Dan won’t be happy with it."
He also coped with the hype with a more relaxed attitude. “I’m expected to win but I don’t feel pressure,” Chen said, and then finished with a dash of wisdom. “There are only two possible results, and I have the confidence to accept failure if I lose.”
Earlier Jan Jorgensen, the world number two from Denmark, who is arguably his nearest rival, played well to keep the lid on the skills of Hu Yun of Hong Kong in a 21-10, 23-21 success, but at the moment it is difficult to see who might stop the champion’s march.
Another Dane, Viktor Axelsen, and Kento Momota, the Japanese left hander, were winners in the other men’s singles group, but the match of the day came in the women’s singles.
It owed much to a refusal to accept defeat by Ratchanok Intanon, the 20-year-old former world champion from Thailand, who saved four match points in her 19-21, 23-21, 21-14 survival against Sung Ji-Hyun, the world number four from South Korea.
Three of them came in a row from 17-20 in the second game. “I just tried not to think too much,” Intanon said, when asked how she coped with the crises. “That’s what I do in training. I don’t think then.”
It was a disappointing day though for India. Saina Nehwal, who became world number one for the first time for a spell during 2015, looked below her best physically as she was beaten 21-14, 21-6 by Nozomi Okuhara, the world number nine from Japan, while Kidambi Srikanth, the last men’s singles player to qualify, was outplayed 21-13, 21-13 by another Japanese player, the fast moving Kento Momota.
Nehwal, who has been battling a foot injury, said “It’s a huge honour to play here, it’s a big event and the level of competition is very tough. I haven’t played for the last three weeks so my stamina is low. Nozomi picks up everything, I’m trying to push myself but it’s not happening.”
Earlier world number one Carolina Marin came from behind in the first game before making an impressive winning start by beating titleholder Tai Tzu Ying 21-16, 21-9 in her bid to add the Super Series finals title to the host of other major titles she has won this year.
Marin, who was making her debut in the competition because she was unable to qualify last year even though she was world champion, eventually ended looking a genuine favourite for the title. However both the leading Chinese women looked in decent shape.
Former world champion Wang Yihan beat former world number one Wang Shixian 21-19, 13-21, 21-13, but the match was played in a cordial spirit and it may be – Intanon’s heroics notwithstanding - that both Wangs have enough left in them to reach the semi-finals.
The tournament started this morning with an upset, both emotional and statistical, when Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, the world’s number one mixed doubles pair and a married couple from China, were beaten by a partnership ranked nine places below them, Lee Chun Hei and Chau Hoi Wah, their compatriots from Hong Kong.
It was temporarily hard to believe that Zhang and Zhao are Olympic champions and Super Series titleholders as they plummeted to a 21-15, 21-12 defeat. But with two more matches to play in their group, they can still qualify for the semi-finals.
The action continues tomorrow with matches commencing at 10am and running until approximately 9pm. For the full schedule go to https://www.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/matches.aspx?id=CA160B94-64E2-4C8A-8E18-9E269E9A46EB&d=20151210
Tickets for the BWF Dubai World Superseries Finals are on sale at www.ticketmaster.ae. Prices start from AED 25, with those under 18 years entering for free when accompanied by a ticketed adult. With plenty of activities in the fanzone and free transport form various locations around Dubai, the event offers a fantastic experience for all to enjoy.
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