World number two Chen Long improved China’s chances of holding on the men’s singles title with a good win and encouraging comments on the second day of the All-England Open.
Chen won in straight games against Takuma Ueda of Japan and both his deeds and words were a boost to his country’s hopes after a first day full of shocks.
That saw two leading Chinese hopes beaten in both the men’s and women’s singles but now Chen’s lively movement and increasing maturity underlined him as a serious title contender in his 21-15, 21-10 success over the world number 22.
“Quite a lot of our squad have had to fly from Asia to Europe and are probably jetlagged, which may be why they didn’t show their best form,” said Chen, who saw teammates Du Pengyu, the third seed, and Hu Yun, the sixth seed both eliminated.
“But I have been playing in Germany so I feel okay. I was also able to calm myself down and play point by point and not rush when it was important,” Chen added.
The most important moments followed Ueda’s tenacious recovery from a three-point deficit to reach 15-15 in the first game, during which Chen’s response was almost perfect.
He played the rallies patiently and picked his moments to attack well, especially with a jump smash which launched the shuttle straight at Ueda’s body and got him to 17-15.
The second game saw the Japanese player take leads of 4-1 and 6-2 but Chen was soon maneouvring the shuttle to all four corners with impressive consistency. He took five points in a row to reach 14-8 and five more from 16-10 to close out the match.
“It was important to try to keep at least a two-point lead for the confidence,” Chen concluded.
If he wins again he may have a semi-final with his compatriot Chen Jin, the former world champion, who had something to spare in beating another Chinese player, Chen Yuekun, by 21-10, 21-10.
Chen Long is seeded for a final on Sunday with Lee Chong wei, the world number one from Malaysia, who suffered a mighty scare in Wednesday’s first round, twice going match points down before surviving against Wong Wing Ki of Hong Kong.
Later the heroine of the first day, Bae Yeon Ju, had a match point to reach the quarter-finals of the women’s singles but was unable to convert it.
Bae had caused perhaps the biggest upset in the history of the century-old tournament with a first round win over Li Xuerui, the Olympic and All-England champion, but now she was beaten 20-22, 22-20, 21-19 by Eriko Hirose, the world number 14 from Japan.
Bae—match point up at 20-19 in the second game—pressed steadily and well in a long rally and looked likely to win it until Hirose, always a courageous defender, suddenly found a counter-attacking smash to avert the danger.
After that the Japanese player came back from 12-17 down in the decider to earn a meeting with another Korean, Sung Ji-Hyun.