Tai Tzu-ying of Taiwan, the top-seeded World Super Series winner, reached the semi-finals of the All-England Open badminton championships on Friday, while China’s Lin Dan and Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei closed in on an unexpected showdown.
Tai advanced with an impressive 21-14, 21-10 win over Pusarla Sindhu, the Olympic silver medalist from India.
Trailing 5-9 in the first game Tai found ways of taming the Sindhu smash, which was timed at 359kph at last year’s All-England.
“I tried to find loopholes in her attack,” Tai said.
Both leading Indian players were eliminated.
Earlier Saina Nehwal, the former world No. 1, was beaten 22-20, 22-20 by Sung Ji-hyun, the third-seeded South Korean, after leading 17-12 in the first game.
Sung faces Tai in the semis.
In the men’s draw Lee, three times the All-England Open champion, produced a light-footed performance belying the fact a knee injury almost prevented the 34-year-old from making his final appearance at the tournament, and outplayed Tian Houwei, the seventh-seeded Chinese player, 21-12, 21-15.
Lin, the 33-year-old three time Olympic champion, recovered from a woeful first game to generate rallies of patience, accuracy and beauty, to oust Viktor Axelsen, the World Super Series champion from Denmark, 8-21, 21-14, 21-15.
Both winning men played almost as well as in their prime and often with more subtlety — to their evident pleasure, as well as that of the organizers, who would love to see the two old gladiators clash today for what would be the 28th and quite likely the last time.
Lee said that Friday was the best he had moved since slipping on a mat a month ago in Kuala Lumpur, while Lin said he had delivered a performance worthy “not only of me going on court, but on an All-England court.”
Asked why he had been able to beat Axelsen when he had lost to him in the bronze-medal play-off at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro last year, Lin said he had just come off a difficult match against Lee the day before in Rio.
Lin’s performance suggests that there is nothing wrong with either his form or motivation in defending the title and with both playing unseeded players in the semi-finals, the chances are good the organizers and the spectators will get their dream final.
In other games, Ratchanok Intanon, the former world champion from Thailand who only just won a fitness race to be ready for the women’s singles, made a startling recovery to destroy Olympic champion Carolina Marin’s hopes.
Marin had not won a World Super Series event since before her Rio triumph, and vowed to rectify that at this tournament, but slid from within sight of victory to an improbable 22-20, 13-21, 21-18 quarter-final defeat.
Marin was 18-11 up in the final game, having landed a variety of heavy smashes, sliced and round-the-head, which seemed to be overwhelming the defences of her young rival.
Almost as an act of desperation Intanon landed several good blows herself, unexpectedly taking the attacking initiative away from the Spaniard, and kept the momentum going.
“I was in control of the match at 18-11, but I lost focus,” Marin said. “My opponent rushed me and I can’t understand why I lost it.”
Intanon plays a surprise semi-finalist, Akane Yamaguchi of Japan, whose 21-23, 21-14, 22-20 victory over the fourth-seeded Sun Yu ended the Chinese bid to regain a women’s singles title they have previously dominated for almost 20 years.
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