DUBAI • Carolina Marin, the women's world champion, made it to the semi-finals of badminton's season-ending Superseries Finals despite a second surprising defeat in two days.
The Spaniard's 9-21, 15-21 loss to Japanese player Nozomi Okuhara yesterday left her survival depending on Taiwan's Tai Tzu-ying achieving an improbable first win of the week against world No. 2 Saina Nehwal later in the night.
And Tai did just that, beating the error-prone Indian 16-21, 21-18, 21-14. The result left all three players with only one win each in the group and eventually Marin was declared second to Okuhara thanks to a better game win count.
Marin is bidding to win the tour's flagship event on her debut and she had started satisfactorily in Dubai three days ago when she beat Tai.
But it went very oddly wrong when she missed a game point in the first game on Thursday against Nehwal and slid to a defeat.
It became even worse yesterday against Okuhara, who took the lead straight away, dominated the first game, resisted Marin's fightback from a four-point deficit to 11-11 and finished as confidently as if she had expected this outcome.
Marin's formidable smash hardly ever found the floor, and, after one long rally which she lost, she ended flat on her back on the floor.
That dramatic moment, at 13-11, also seemed significant. The Spaniard's point-winning screams of celebration grew fewer while Okuhara's movements became ever quicker.
And, after completing her third win of the week to become an unexpected semi-finalist, the Japanese claimed she expected to play even better. Okuhara said: "I'm now going off to do more training."
Marin was honest. "I didn't prepare so well for my match with Saina," she admitted. "And today I made far too many mistakes."
Soon after Ratchanok Intanon joined Okuhara in the semi-finals.
The former world champion from Thailand was able to create many more openings than Marin could, and enterprisingly squeezed out a 21-14, 21-19 win over Wang Shixian, the former world No. 1 from China.
The other Chinese player, Wang Yihan, the former world champion, had already qualified for the semi-finals with two tough three-game wins.
In the men's section, defending champion and world No. 1 Chen Long completed an unbeaten three-match sequence in his group with a 21-14, 21-17 victory over Jan Jorgensen, the world No. 2 from Denmark.
Both had already qualified for the semi-finals and Chen said they "enjoyed themselves out there".
That did not however prevent him from accelerating impressively from a 10-13 deficit to win the first game and producing another well-timed surge of five points out of six in the middle of the second game to ensure control of the match.
WORLD SUPERSERIES FINALS, DUBAI
S-finals: StarHub Ch201, 5pm