The 2017 Australian Badminton Open program unfolded today at Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre, with a jam-packed day of action featuring a host of Olympic champions and top ranked players all looking for wins.
Widely regarded as the world’s best ever player, China’s Lin Dan was victorious in his singles match, winning 21-14 21-12 over Korea’s Lee Dong Keun.
After bowing out in the first round of the Indonesia Open last week to Wang Tzu Wei of Chinese Taipei, Dan was a little apprehensive heading into today’s match.
“Generally I think I performed quite well even though I was a bit nervous because of losing in Indonesia,” Dan said.
“So it took me quite a while to adjust. This is quite a challenge because it is very competitive among the male singles players and I think the one who adapts the fastest will have the best advantage. I didn’t think too far, I just wanted to focus on each single game and see where I go.”
The day provided a number of significant upsets, starting with Wei being knocked out of the men’s singles, losing in straight games to Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama (23-21 21-19). The world number 19 was expected to win, having previously defeated Tsuneyama three times.
The world number five Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei also bowed out, losing to world number 21 Huang Yuxiang of China in three games. The win was Huang's first in what was their second meeting.
When a pre-existing heel injury flared up, highly ranked athlete Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark was forced to retire from his opening round match against Anthony Sinisuka Ginting of Indonesia.
The defending Australian Open champion Hans-Kristian Vittinghus of Denmark eased through his opening match, taking down Siril Verma 21-16 21-8.
India’s PV Sindhu was given a scare in her opening round of the women’s singles, dropping the second set to Japan’s Sayaka Sato, before eventually recovering in the third to win 21-17 14-21 21-18. Sindhu, the 2016 Olympic silver medallist lost her momentum during the second game, and Sato was able to capitalise on a series of unforced errors.
“I should have finished it off in the second game,” Sindhu said.
“I was leading and I was confident but I think that I made too many errors from my side. I was very nervous about what to do because nothing was going right. I was leading 13-11 and then she was 17-13. I was blank and I couldn’t get points after that.”
The third set played out with long rallies, Sato’s signature style, but Sindhu was able to put regain her momentum and close out the match.
“In the break I was thinking about the second game but my coach told me, it’s over – you shouldn’t think about it and be prepared for the third set. So I went onto the court that way.”
The biggest shock came later in the night however, when world number 2 and reigning Olympic Champion Carolina Marin was defeated in two games by Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, ranked 12th in the world.
The top ranked women’s singles player Tai Tzu Ying made short work of Scotland’s Kirsty Gilmour, winning in 21-18 21-11 in 33 minutes. The defending Australian Open champion Saina Nehwal of India who is unseeded, cruised through her opening match, taking down the world number 5 Sung Ji Hyun of Korea (21-10 21-16).
In their first match as a new doubles pairing, Aussies HD Tang and Cham Cheng were victorious over their fellow Australians Jacob Schueler and Nathan Tang (21-19 21-14).
“We were so nervous – both our bodies were frozen, we were like statues at the start. It was a 50-50 match, it could have gone either way,” Tang said.
“In the second set we were a lot more relaxed, a lot more confident in our shots. Neither of us has ever made round 2 of a SuperSeries so it meant a lot to us, we wanted to go out there and try our best.”
The Chinese pairing of Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan were put to the test, with Chin Chung and Tang Chun Man from Hong Kong unexpectedly taking out the second game with an impressive high ace serve on the final point.
Hong Kong led until 15 in the rubber game and even had one match point over their highly favoured Chinese opponents, but a hit out wide lost them the chance and they went on to eventually lose 21-18 20-22 23-21.
"Playing two lefthanders meant we had to adjust our usual strategy and strokes,” said Liu.
Australia’s highest ranked players Gronya Somerville and Setyana Mapasa have made a shock departure from competition, going down 21-19 21-19 to Poon Lok Yan and Tse Ying Suet of Hong Kong, ranked number 38 in the world.
Despite beating them in Indonesia last week, the Korean pairing of Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan could not overcome their Chinese opponents Bao Yixin and Tang Jinhua, going down 21-17 21-18. The recently reunited Chinese pair was just too good for Jung and Shin, who are world number 5 and won the Olympic bronze medal last year.
The 2016 Olympic mixed doubles gold medallists– Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia – suffered a disappointing defeat to Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing of Malaysia.
Ahmad and Natsir won the Indonesia Open last week, despite Natsire carrying a knee injury, but they could not maintain their winning form here in Sydney, going down 21-17 21-16 to the Malaysians who are themselves in the top 10 pairs in the world.
Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen had a surprise loss to Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping of China in straight games (21-19 21-15).
Competition continues tomorrow, Thursday 22 June, with the Round of 16. For all the schedule, draw and results, go to: http://www.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/tournament.aspx?id=F0D1C54B-EF2E-4ED7-8E0F-2139EF1FB98E