The build up event to the All England Championships next week attracted several of the top 10 players in the world from all events, but some of those players looking to play their way into form failed at the first hurdle today.
A Near Perfect Showing
13 of the last 16 players in the men’s singles are the seeds from the start of the week, with Christian Lind Thomsen, Yong Zhao Ashton Chen and Ville Lang making up the remainder of the draw. Lind Thomsen was responsible for the loss of Wang Zhengming in the opening round whilst Ville Lang defeated the 12th seeded Boonsak Ponsana to reach the third round tomorrow.
Lin Dan and Chen Jin are the favourites this week, hoping to boost their ranking points in the last few months of Olympic qualifying. Both have reached the last 16 without the loss of a game, with the top seeded Lin Dan taking on Pablo Abian of Spain in the third round whilst Chen Jin takes on Wong Wing Ki in his third round match.
Marin Topples Cheng
One of the big surprises in the opening round of the women’s singles was the defeat of Cheng Shao Chieh to Carolina Marin of Spain. The 4th seed and world silver medalist crashed out in a two game loss that never looked in danger of anything but beating a victory for the Spanish teenager. There were no such shocks regarding the top two seeds, with Wang Xin and Li Xuerui coming through their opening round matches without the loss of a game.
Local hopes will be on the shoulders of Juliane Schenk, as the 3rd seed started her campaign in impressive fashion over Anastacia Prokopenko to set up her second round clash with Eriko Hirose of Japan as two of the top 20 players in the world face other tomorrow.
Korean Shock In Doubles
Lee and Jung started their week off with a straightforward victory to set up a second round clash with the German pairing of Fuchs and Roth, with the possibility of an all-Korean final looming large. Ko and Yoo are seeded 2nd this week and defeated Koch and Zauner in impressive fashion to set up their second round clash with Chen and Lin of Chinese Taipei.
There will be no such luck in the women’s doubles, with top seeded Ha and Kim crashing out to Sari and Yao of Singapore in the opening round, opening the door for an all-Japanese final. The highest three seeds left in the draw are all Japanese but the 2nd seeded Fujii and Kakiiwa have a tough task tomorrow against the Chinese pairing of Ma and Zhong.
7 of the 8 seeds are left in the mixed doubles draw, with the 5th seeded Chan and Goh losing out to Rijal and Susanto in the opening round. Chen and Cheng are the top seeds this week and started off with a three game victory over their Malaysian opponents. There was a real scare for the 3rd seeded Lee and Ha who fought back after losing the opening game 21-7 to ensure their place in the last 16. Fuchs and Michels ensure a German involvement tomorrow, with the 8th seeded pairing defeating the Chinese qualifiers Qiu and Tang.
After Lee Chong Wei’s 24th and 25th Super Series titles in Korea and Malaysia, the world number 1 is the undoubted front-runner for the Olympic title. Compounded with his victory over Lin Dan in Seoul, followed by a defeat by the Olympic champion to Jan O Jorgensen in Malaysia this week. The first two Super Series titles have given us plenty of questions as well as definitive answers.
Lee Chong Wei is #1
His victory over Lin Dan re-asserted his place at the top of the world game whilst his win over Kenichi Tago showed just how far the gap is between himself at most of the field in Malaysia. There was an arrogance and a knowledge that he was the best player in the world in the Malaysian final whilst at the same time Kenichi Tago knew that he was never going to beat the Malaysian before eventually losing for the 11th time to Lee Chong Wei.
Lin Dan needs to improve
A stunning statement to make, but Lin Dan is the favourite for every event that he plays, regardless of his seeding. His defeat to Lee Chong Wei could be put down to lack of match practice or testing out new tactics ahead of the Olympics. His defeat to Jan O Jorgensen is much less forgivable, as well as dropping games in four of his five matches in Korea the week previously.
Chen Long is a legitimate #3 in the world
With the conspiracy theory that China is trying to create a false ranking for some players, Chen Long is a genuine threat in every tournament now. His retirement in Korea seemed to be an actual injury before returning to action and giving Lee Chong Wei a scare in the semi finals in Malaysia. He is perhaps a bigger threat than Lin Dan is at these events and his attendance at the final in Malaysia with no other Chinese presence with him was a telling sign in his commitment to succeed in the coming months and years. He seems to be a student of the game rather that a player engineered to win.
Gade’s schedule will be his downfall
Two early defeats in Korea and Malaysia is a unwanted parallel to Taufik’s demise in Denmark and France last year. He claimed to be fatigued after a busy schedule of the past 4 months but this is his own doing. He claimed that the Olympics would be his final tournament and has attempted to play almost every tournament since the world championships. Should he play the European Team championships in February, it would also definitely hinder his chances at the All-England Champions in early March. Gade needs to have a 6-week lay off before his final push for Olympic success.
Hidayat still competitive
His victory in India before the turn of the year propped him back into the top 10, then a victory over Tien Minh Nguyen saw him reach the last 8 of a Super Series for the first time in recent memory. A 6-week break ahead of the All-England could be just as important to Hidayat as it is to Gade.
Jorgensen’s stock is on the rise
With all the talk of Viktor Axelsen, it has perhaps motivated Jan O Jorgensen more in the past 2 weeks. After seeing his teenage team-mate lose in the opening round in both events, Jorgensen reached the semi finals in Korea and the quarter finals in Malaysia, defeating Lin Dan in the second round. Expect Jorgensen to play most of the European Team Championships as Denmark’s #1, a position that might be his on merit soon enough.
Tago needs to build on his success
After defeating Peter Gade in the second round in Malaysia, the 22-year old defeated Simon Santoso in the quarterfinals and eventually reached the final in Malaysia, before being outclassed by Lee Chong Wei in the final. His performance against Lee Chong Wei in Korea is one that he has to study, taking the Malaysia to two tight games with just a few more points needed to break the 11-match losing run he has against the world number 1.
All-England Premier – March 6-11
Swiss Open GP Gold – March 13-18
Gade’s defeat to Kenichi Tago was a massive blow to the Danish squad but the heroics of Jan O Jorgensen in his three game victory over the World and Olympic champion Lin Dan stole the headlines on day 2.
Lee Chong Wei Takes On Taufik
The doubters over Taufik’s desire to continue to perform at the highest level have lessened of the past month, with a victory in India and his run this week to the last 8 after this victory over Tien Minh Nguyen. His opponent in the last 8 is the world number 1 Lee Chong Wei who defeat Kazushi Yamada in two games to reach the quarter finals.
The doubters have now focussed on Peter Gade. Two early exits in Korea and this week in Malaysia to Kenichi Tago have put question marks over Gade’s chances at the London Olympics. Jan O Jorgensen could well be a legitimate contender to take over the Danish number 1 spot ahead of the summer after a stunning three game victory over Lin Dan in one of the last matches of the day.
5 From 8 For The Chinese
Only Tine Baun stopped a full compliment of Chinese players entering the quarter finals, with the Dane defeating Liu Xin in two games to set up the only quarter final without Chinese interest against Saina Nehwal of India. Juliane Schenk doubles the European involvement in the latter stages, but takes on the 3rd seed Wang Shixian in her quarter final matchup. Two all-Chinese matchups make up the remaining quarter finals, with top seeded Wang Yihan taking on Li Xuerui in the first of the quarter finals whilst Wang Xin takes on Jiang Yanjiao in the more competitive of the two matches.
Seeds Topple Throughout The Doubles
Just two rounds in and the draws for all three doubles events have been decimated. Just three seeds remain in the men’s doubles, headlined by the 3rd seeded Chai and Guo who take on Kido and Setiawan to be the last remaining seed left in the top half of the draw. Hashimoto and Hirata are the last seeds left in the bottom half of the draw and they take on Kim and Kim of Korea in their quarter final match, with the Korean’s taking out the 4th seeded Koo and Tan to ensure their place in the last 8.
The women’s doubles is often the event where 8 seeds will make up the last 8 but not this week. Just five seeds remain with top seeded Fujii and Kakiiwa taking on the 7th seeded Rytter Juhl and Pedersen in the last 8. Hoo and Woon take on Zhong and Yixin in the only quarter final without a seed taking part and the only Chinese pair left in the draw. 2nd seeded Ha and Kim take on the final unseeded pair left in the draw, taking on Chin and Wong of Malaysia in their quarter final match.
Just three seeds remain in the mixed doubles also, with the Russian pair of Nikolaenko and Sorokina continuing their excellent form to start the year. Their reward for defeating the 2009 world champions Laybourn and Rytter Juhl is a quarter final against the current world champions, Zhang and Zhao of China. Xu and Ma take on Lee and Ha of Korea in the bottom half of the draw in a rematch of the Korean Open final, a match that the Chinese pair won in three games.
Lee Chong Wei’s final Super Series event in his home nation started with an all-Malaysian encounter with Daren Liew, wrapped up in just over a half hour to give his fanatical home support a brief glimpse of what he is capable of this week.
Every Seed Through
The week has started completely differently to Seoul just 7 days ago, every seed has progressed as well as Taufik Hidayat, who has propped himself back into the top 10 in the world with a win in India over the Christmas period. Jan O Jorgensen’s reward for his three game battle with Du Pengyu is a even bigger Chinese threat, world number 2 Lin Dan. The 2nd seed defeat Viktor Axelsen in two games to set up his second round match, with the Danish teenager getting a lot more experience at Super Series level with the pending retirement of Peter Gade. Gade progressed in two tight games over Wong Wing Ki to set up a second round match against Kenichi Tago. Taufik Hidayat defeated Chou Tien Chen in two games to book his place in the last 16 against Tien Minh Nguyen of Vietnam, seeded 7.
6 Through To Last 16
The all-conquering Chinese squad are here in numbers in the women’s singles, with the prospect of 6 players in the last 8 looming tomorrow. Top seeded Wang Yihan takes on Bae Youn Joo of Korea, a quarter finalist in Korea last week. 2nd seeded Wang Xin takes on Eriko Hirose of Japan in her second round match, with a likely quarter final match with Jiang Yanjiao should the 6th seeded defeat Pi Hongyan of France. The European threat as always comes from Tine Baun and Juliane Schenk, with both players progressing to the second round, with Baun having the toughest draw facing Liu Xin of China in her second round match.
Shocks and Withdrawals Open Door For New Winners
The men’s doubles is without the top two in the world this week, leaving Ko and Yoo as the clear favourites this week. Their run lasted just a single round as they were shocked in the 1st round by Endo and Hayakawa of Japan. The draw is wide open with the 3rd seed Chai and Guo being the top seeds left in the draw but needing three games to beat Ellis and Mills of England in their opening round matches. There were wins for the 4th seeded Koo and Tan as well as the 5th seeded Ahsan and Septano to ensure some seeds remained in the draw.
Without the top two Chinese pairs in the women’s doubles, the draw is an absolute lottery as there will be a non-Chinese winner of this event for the first time in almost a year. Fujii and Kakiiwa are the top seeds this week and started off strongly with a three game victory over the Chinese pair of Huan and Tang. Finalists last week, Ha and Kim are the second seeds this week and they also started strong with a two game victory over Wallwork and White of England. The biggest casualty of the opening round was the 3rd seeded Maeda and Suetsuna who crashed out to Malaysia’s Woon and Hoo in three games.
The mixed doubles has a full compliment of Chinese pairs, with four in the last 16. Zhao and Zhang are safely into round 2 with a two game victory over Lee and Chien whilst the bottom half sees an all-Chinese second round clash between Ma and Xu playing He and Yixin after both pairs won in two games. The Russian pair of Nikolaenko and Sorokina continue their excellent run of form, disposing of the 6th seeded Prapakamol and Thoungthongkam to reach the second round where they will take on the 2009 world champions Laybourn and Rytter Juhl.
With interest in three of the five finals, Korea looked to be a position with Lee Yong Dae and Ha Jung Eun to claim one if not more titles only to be denied by the Chinese juggernaut.
Lee Chong Wei Claims Title
The first meeting of 2012 between Lin Dan and Lee Chong Wei went the way of the Malaysian in a three game, 75 minute encounter that bodes well for the world number 1 in an Olympic year. It is the 9th victory over Lin Dan in their 27 encounters and breaks a streak of three consecutive losses to the Olympic champion.
Four Titles For China
Wang Shixian claimed the women’s singles in a one-sided all-Chinese encounter against Jiang Yanjiao, taking the title 21-12, 21-17 in 38 minutes. Tian and Zhao claimed the first title of 2012 in the women’s doubles over Ha and Kim in a two game 50-minute encounter which will be a real confidence boost for the Chinese pair after several defeats at this stage in 2011. Lee and Ha were defeated in three games by Xu and Ma of China in the mixed doubles, losing out in a 72-minute match 21-12, 19-21, 21-10.
Cai and Fu levelled their rivalry with Lee and Jung at 10-10 with a victory in the first final of the day in the men’s doubles. Another tight three game match was decided in 78 minutes with the Chinese pairing taking the title 18-21, 21-17, 21-19 to ensure there was no Korean success on home soil in 2012.
The European interest ended on semi finals day, but that was not the biggest shock of the day. Wang and Yu’s stunning run came to an end at the hands of Ha and Kim in the women’s doubles as two Koreans have a chance of two titles in Seoul.
First Meeting Of 2012
The two best players in the world meet for the first time this year, with the momentum with Lin Dan with victories in their previous three matchups. Lee Chong Wei has reached the final with the loss of a single game on route. It is their 27th meeting and the perfect start to the Olympic year.
Jiang Yanjiao claimed a famous win over Wang Yihan to boost her Olympic aspirations, her opponent in the final will be Wang Shixian and a victory over the world number 3 would improve her chances of making the Chinese squad even more. The world number 6 also holds a 4-3 head to head record over her team-mate.
China Against Korea In Doubles
Three Chinese pairs will take on three Korean pairs in the doubles finals. Cai and Fu take on Lee and Jung in the men’s doubles final for their 20th meeting in their rivalry, with Lee Yong Dae hoping to claim a 6th Korean Open title. His second chance comes in the mixed doubles as he teams up with Ha Jung Eun to take on the Chinese pairing of Xu and Ma. Ha Jung Eun claimed the biggest upset of the week as her and partner Kim Min Jung stunned the world number pairing of Wang and Yu in the women’s doubles semi finals to set up a match against Tian and Zhao and become the first non-Chinese pair to beat the world number 1 pairing.
It was a day with German, Danish and Indian involvement hoping to overcome the odds to reach the last 4 against a fierce contingent of local players and the all-conquering Chinese. For the most part, the latter pair of nations took the spoils.
Lee and Lin Ever Closer To A Korean Rematch
Form might be temporary, but this week has seen the form players in the world reach the last 4 with the unlikely inclusion of Du Pengyu who announced his arrival this week with his opening round demolition of Peter Gade. The Chinese player now has his toughest match of the week against the world number 1 Lee Chong Wei, with the hope of setting up a potential all-Chinese final after the Malaysia defeating Kenichi Tago once more in their one-sided rivalry. Lin Dan would be the second part of the final, with a three game victory over Jan O Jorgensen setting up a semi final against Sho Sasaki who ended European chances in the event with his two game victory over Marc Zwiebler.
A Chinese Monopoly Broken
China hoped for an all-Chinese semi final line-up to cement their place at the top of the women’s singles game, however Bae Youn Joo did not read the script in her victory over Li Xuerui to break the Chinese monopoly of the last 4 places. The Korean takes on Wang Shixian in the semi final, with the 2nd seed failing to drop a game to this point. The other semi final is an all-Chinese clash between the world number 1 Wang Yihan and Jiang Yanjiao. The top seed ended European hopes with a two game victory over Germany’s Juliane Schenk whilst Jiang Yanjiao ended India’s hopes with her own two game victory over Saina Nehwal.
China And Korea Dominate Doubles
Of the 12 pairs remaining in the three doubles events, only two are not Korean or Chinese. The men’s doubles has a Korean majority of 3 to 1 over it’s Chinese rivals. With Cai and Fu the lone Chinese hope in the event. The top seeds take on Ko and Yoo of Korea for a place in Sunday’s final whilst Lee and Jung take on their countrymen Kim and Kim who ended Hong and Shen’s run this week to ensure a sole Chinese entry in the semi finals.
The women’s doubles has two China-Korea matches, with Wang and Yu taking on Ha and Kim in the first semi final in a meeting that has been monumentally one sided. The 6-0 advantage to the Chinese pair is a similar record to most of the other pairs in the world as the world number 1 pair look to extended their unbeaten run to a calendar year. The other semi final sees Tian and Zhao take on Jung and Kim, an unseeded pair who defeated the 7th seeded Matsuo and Naito to reach this stage.
European hopes lay in the mixed doubles, with interest in both semi finals. Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen will be the pair that people will easily recognise, they take on Xu and Ma in the second semi final between the top highest seeds left in the draw. The other semi final features Lee Yong Dae, looking for a historic double in his home country with partner Ha Jung Eun. The Korean pair take on the Russian pairing of Nikolaenko and Sorokina, who defeated He and Yixin in their quarter final in the biggest win of their careers to date.
After losing the top seed in the mixed doubles, the Chinese squad got back on track in Seoul today whilst the Danish contingent had little to celebrate in the second round.
Four Seeds Remain
The top two in the world progressed to the last 8 with both needing the full three games to ensure their place in the quarter finals. Lee Chong Wei was tested by Shon Wan Ho before eventually setting up his quarter final match with Kenichi Tago. Simon Santoso is the other seed remaining in the top half of the draw who will likely move up the rankings after this week after securing a quarter final match against Du Pengyu who continues his excellent run with a three game victory over Hu Yun.
A lot was expected of Marc Zwiebler after his double victory over Taufik Hidayat and he has finally delivered with a run to a Premier quarter final against Sho Sasaki. The Japanese 6th seed was impressive in his two game victory over Wang Zhengming to ensure his place in the last 8. Jan O Jorgensen claimed the biggest scalp of the day in his victory over Chen Jin in three games to set up a quarter final against Lin Dan, who had his own struggles in beating Lee Hyun Il before progressing in three games.
Chinese Presence In All Quarter Finals
All four of the quarter finals will have some Chinese presence as the three seeded players are joined in the last 8 by Li Xuerui. Juliane Schenk is the sole European in the draw but will have a tough test to still be in the draw after the end of play tomorrow as she takes on Wang Yihan, whilst Jiang Yanjiao or Saina Nehwal will face the winner depending on the result of their quarter final in the top half of the draw. Wang Shixian takes on Gu Juan for a place in the last 4 whilst the only non-seeded Chinese player Li Xuerui takes on Bae Youn Joo in the second quarter final in the bottom half of the draw.
Seeds Topple In Men’s Doubles
Only three seeds remain in the draw, with a Cai/Fu versus Lee/Jung final looming large. Boe and Mogensen crashed out to Hong and Shen of China who take on Korea’s Kim and Kim for a place in the semi final. Lee and Jung needed three games to ensure their place in the last 8 where they will take on the Chinese Taipei pair of Fang and Lee a place in the last 4. Cai and Fu saved a match point before booking their place in the quarter finals against the German pairing of Fuchs and Roth, the last remaining European pair in the draw. Ko and Yoo will hope to ensure an all-Korean final as they try to progress into the last 4 in their match against Endo and Hayakawa of Japan.
Chinese Powerhouses Cruise Into Last 8
Wang and Yu progressed into the last 8 in straight forward fashion, and were joined by their team-mates Tian and Zhao in equally impressive fashion. The prospect of a ninth meeting of the year in Sunday is almost a foregone conclusion, such is their gap at the top of the world’s elite. Xu and Ma are into the last 8 in the mixed doubles and take on the 2009 world champions Laybourn and Rytter Juhl in their quarter final matchup. Whilst in the top half, He and Yixin ensured a Chinese involvement after their victory over Adcock and Bankier in the second round.
Several seeds crashed out of the opening round in Seoul, but there were some big-name departures on the opening day also.
Gade & Taufik Crash Out
Whilst Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan both progressed into the second round, the two big surprises were the loss of the 3rd and 4th seeded players. Chen Long retired from his opening round match with Hsu Jen Hao trailing 20-15 in the first game whilst Peter Gade was comprehensively beaten by Du Pengyu of China, with the Dane losing 21-9, 21-12. Gade cited his busy schedule over the last 4 months as a factor in his defeat to the world number 11.
Kenichi Tago disposed of the 7th seeded Tien Minh Nugyen to take the number of seeds left in the event down to 5. The big match not containing a seed seen Taufik Hidayat crash out at the first round to England’s Rajiv Ouseph to further question the Indonesian’s ability to qualify for the London Olympics.
Seeds Topple In Women’s Singles
There was a similar story in the women’s singles, with 3rd seeded Wang Xin losing out to Bae Youn Joo in third games as well as Sung Ji Hyun crashing out to Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei in two games. Wang Yihan needed three games to defeat Jie Yao but there was no such trouble for Wang Shixian who progressed safely into the second round.
Denmark Lead European Charge
With the loss of Gade, the Danes will rely on their doubles partnerships to bring some success in Seoul. Boe and Mogensen needed three games to defeat the 2005 world champs Bach and Gunawan and are joined in the last 16 by Conrad-Petersen and Rasmussen who take on the 4th seeded Ko and Yoo in the second round. The top two seeds in the men’s doubles both progressed in straightforward fashion, winning their matches in 2 games.
Wang and Yu reminded everyone why they are the best pair in the world with a merciless 21-7, 21-5 victory over Wang and Wang of the USA. Tian and Zhao also progressed easily to set up their all Chinese second round against Yixin and Zhong. The lone Danish pair left is Rytter Juhl and Pedersen who take on the 7th seeded Japanese pairing of Matsuo and Naito who were impressive in their 21-7, 21-9 over Grether and Reid of Canada.
The biggest shock of the day came in the mixed doubles as top seeded Zhao and Zhang crashed out to the British pair of Adcock and Bankier in a rematch of the 2011 World Championship final. The British pair take on another Chinese pair in the second round, facing He and Yixin. Xu and Ma lead the Chinese charge and take on the Russian qualifiers Durkin and Vislova in their second round match. The Danes have two seeded pairs remaining, the 3rd seeded Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen faught back from a game down to reach the last 16 whilst the 8th seeded Laybourn and Rytter Juhl defeated the British pairing of Blair and White to reach the last 16.