Battle-fatigued Chinese stars fall at Japan Open

AFP, TOKYO

Thu, Sep 19, 2013 - Page 20

Women’s world No. 1 Li Xuerui pulled out of the Japan Open yeserday with a sore knee and men’s No. 2 Chen Long suffered a shock defeat to cap a miserable day for China.

The withdrawal of Li, the top seed and London Olympic champion, from the eighth leg of the 12-round World Superseries was linked by her teammate to a jam-packed competition schedule for Chinese players, with Chen also saying that he was fatigued.

Li Xuerui, 22, suffered pain in her left knee before the first round started.

Li’s nearest rival and second seed Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand, who beat the Chinese at the world championship final last month, was also forced out the competition, suffering lower-back pain.

The back problem had also sidelined the 18-year-old Thai from the China Masters last week.

Chen, the All-England champion, went out 24-22, 21-16 to Kazuteru Kozai of Japan, ranked 287th in the world and with no major international success to his name.

The packed playing schedule has been a common concern for badminton stars, with Malaysian world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei being advised to reduce his tournament appearances to continue his career toward the 2016 Rio Olympics.

However, top-seeded Lee, 30, who skipped the China Masters to focus on the Japan Open, breezed past Taiwan’s Hsu Jen Hao 21-15, 21-9 in the final match of the first round.