An Olympic champion was beaten again at the Dubai World Superseries Finals on Thursday in another exciting day at the Hamdan Sports Complex. Gruffudd Owen reports live from Dubai
Fans will be treated to a showdown in the women’s singles on Friday at the Dubai World Superseries Finals – but under circumstances they might not have initially expected.
Carolina Marin takes on PV Sindhu in an eagerly-anticipated Olympic final rematch, but instead of it being a clash between two of the pre-tournament favourites, a struggling Marin will instead be playing to stay in the tournament after she suffered a second successive loss at the hands of Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi on Thursday (18-21, 21-17, 21-14).
Sindhu was also defeated, this time by the impressive Sun Yu of China (21-15, 21-17), but the Indian still harbours hopes of qualifying for the semi-final if she can enact revenge on Marin.
Normality was restored elsewhere on day two as men’s world no. 1 Lee Chong Wei made amends for his surprising opening-day loss to Son Wan-ho by beating Angus Ng Ka Long of Hong Kong.
The Malaysian’s 21-15, 22-20 victory sets up a sudden-death match against Viktor Axelsen on Friday. With the Dane losing to Son Wan-ho in a closely fought encounter (21-19, 14-21, 21-18), both he and Lee Chong Wei now have one win and one loss each, which means the winner of their tie will join Son Wan-ho in the semi finals.
Group B is particularly competitive in the men’s singles category, but a stoical Axelsen was in no mood to bemoan the nature of the draw, despite the disappointment of his defeat.
“That’s the game. I like to focus on the things I can control,” he said after his loss.
“I can’t control the draw, so I don’t get anything out of crying about it. I just have to look forward and do my best.”
Things were a lot more straightforward in Group A, with top seed Jan O Jorgensen and Tian Houwei of China safely through to the last four after easing past Marc Zwiebler and Hu Yun respectively.
A gulf in class was also to be found in Group A of the women’s singles competition. Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun made it two wins out of two by proving too strong for the Chinese youngster He Bingjiao (21-18, 21-15), who will be heading home after losing her first two matches.
Joining Bingjiao in leaving the tournament at the group stage is Ratchanok Intanon, who was overpowered by world no. 1 Tai Tzu Ying (21-12, 21-14).
The 22-year-old from Chinese Taipei is in seemingly unstoppable form, although she was quick to downplay another eye-catching display.
“It was a normal performance for me. I always try my best.
“Luckily I haven’t had a complicated start to the Finals and the other players in the women’s draw have faced really tough competition, but all I can do is prepare my game and play whoever is in front of me.”
Group B of the men’s doubles has already been decided after the Danish pairing of Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen pulled out of the competition on day one due to Boe contracting a fever.
Their absence means V Shem Goh and Wee Kiong Tan of Malaysia make the semi finals alongside Chai Biao and Hong Wei of China, with both teams having already beaten fifth seeds Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen.
Meanwhile, mixed doubles Olympic gold medallists Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia are out after retiring to Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen of Denmark (21-8, 11-6), who qualify for the last four.
Play begins on the third day of the 2016 BWF World Superseries Finals at 09:00 (UAE time) on Friday 16 December. The tournament takes place at the Hamdan Sports Complex in Dubai.
Gruffudd Owen will be reporting live from the event - go to www.vision.ae or @visionsportae on Twitter, Instagram or Facebook for more updates