Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying yesterday reminded the world why she is No. 1 when she had France’s Qi Xuefei struggling to match up through their 25-minute encounter.
Tai, who beat Qi 21-10, 21-13, had a rough start to the Tokyo Olympics, taking longer to fend off two hugely inferior opponents earlier in the Games.
The 27-year-old has a history of slipping up at the Olympics, despite performing exceptionally in other competitions.
Tai, who became world No. 1 in 2016, has won the All England Open title three times and was a gold medalist at the 2018 Asian Games.
“This is the first time I am getting to the top eight at the Olympics,” Tai said after the match. “Now the most important thing is to prepare.”
Tai was barely tested in any of her three group matches, but looming is a much tougher encounter with the winner of tomorrow’s round-of-16 match between Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon, who has beaten Tai on multiple occasions, and Gregoria Tunjung of Indonesia.
Asked whom she would want to face, Tai joked: “I just want them to play a long match. After that, either one will be fine with me.”
Tai said that she has set her sights on winning her first Olympic medal in Tokyo, after bowing out in the round-of-16 in London in 2012 and Rio de Janeiro in 2016, but she knows the competition will become harder.
“I will try hard to reduce my mistakes, but I do not care who I face,” she said. “I do know many people care about me, and I will do my best not to let them down.”
There were 14 preliminary groups in the women’s singles, and the winners of 12 of the 14 groups are to play each other in the round-of-16, but Tai was given an automatic bye into the quarter-finals by virtue of being one of the tournament’s top two seeds.
The bye allows Tai to rest rather than playing an extra match, but she would not have the benefit of having been challenged in any of her group matches, all of which she won in straight games. Her next match is tomorrow.
In the men’s singles, Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen, the world No. 3, was neck-and-neck for more than an hour with Canada’s Brian Yang, who ranks 44th, in a near-upset.
The match ended 21-18, 16-21, 22-20 to an exhausted Chou, who rallied to resounding cheers from his team in the stands.
Taiwan’s Wang Tzu-wei, the world No. 10, defeated 54th seeded Nhat Nguyen of Ireland.
Nguyen struggled to find his rhythm through the opening set, which he lost 12-21, but he rallied in the second, taking it to 21-18, but in the end it was not enough and Wang won the last game 21-12.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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