Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying won her group yesterday in the women’s singles badminton competition to advance to the 16-player elimination round, where she immediately faces a daunting challenge.
The 18-year-old, currently ranked 13th in the world and seeded 10th in London, won her three-player group as expected by defeating Victoria Montero of Mexico 21-6, 21-10.
Tai had previously defeated Anu Nieminen of Finland, also in straight games, to finish atop her group with a 2-0 record and book a spot in the knockout stage.
In her next match, she faces third seed Li Xuerui, one of the three Chinese players expected to sweep the medals in the event.
Li may be the hottest of the three. She has won four of the past five singles events she has played in, the only blemish coming at the Indonesia Open in mid-June when she lost to Saina Nehwal of India in the final.
Tai has a puncher’s chance, having played well in spurts against the 21-year-old Chinese in two recent matches.
She lost 9-21, 21-16, 21-10 to Li at the All England Open on March 1 and 21-8, 21-19 at the French Open in October last year.
Taiwan’s other competitor in the women’s singles, Cheng Shao-chieh, also won in her group to advance to the elimination round.
Cheng, seeded seventh, won her three-player group by defeating Neslihan Yigit of Turkey 21-10, 21-6 yesterday.
Cheng had previously beaten Simone Prutsch of Austria, also in straight games.
In the women’s doubles, Taiwan’s “golden duo” of Chien Yu-chin and Cheng Wen-hsing came agonizingly close to clinching a place in the quarter-finals Monday, only to fall to the verge of elimination, but then pull qualification back from the brink yesterday.
Chien and Cheng lost to Jwala Gutt and Ashwini Ponnappa of India, 25-23, 16-21, 21-18 in the second of their three group matches and needed a convincing win over the top pairing in the group — Reika Kakiiwa and Mizuki Fujii of Japan — to have any chance of advancing.
The Taiwanese duo duly obliged by beating the Japanese pairing 21-19, 21-11 yesterday.
Against the Indian duo on Monday, Chien and Cheng took a late lead in the first game, only to squander three game points, a pivotal moment in the match.
“All I can say is that when we reached 22, it’s really too bad that I missed my serve,” a frustrated Cheng said, admitting that they played too passively when they were ahead.
After rebounding to win the second game, the Taiwanese pulled to within 19-18 in the final game and Cheng had a clear shot close to the net to even the score. Instead, she mishit the shuttlecock, sending it into the net.
The match ended a point later.
“The shuttlecock was very close to the net and I was afraid my racket would hit it, so I pulled the racket back too quickly,” Cheng said.
Head coach Liao Kuo-mao said it was a match Chien and Cheng should have won, but did not, leaving him very disappointed.
“We made too many unforced errors,” he said. “If we had taken the first set, we would probably be the ones who are happy now.”
Chien and Cheng were ranked world No. 1 in women’s doubles as recently as April last year, but a run of bad form sent their ranking tumbling to 11th and they were not seen as medal favorites.
In the men’s singles, Hsu Jen-hao was beaten 21-14, 21-10 by Son Wan-ho of South Korea yesterday and eliminated from the competition.
Taiwanese athletes in action