Rusty Olympic champ Chen suffers All England exit

China's Olympic champion Chen Long lost in the second round to Thailand's Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk in the All England Open.
China's Olympic champion Chen Long lost in the second round to Thailand's Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk in the All England Open. PHOTO: ST FILE

LONDON • China's Olympic champion Chen Long was dumped out of the All England Open on Thursday, losing in the second round to Thailand's world No. 12 Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk 21-16, 21-19.

A lack of competitive badminton had made Chen vulnerable, and Tanongsak's sensible strategy of not too frequently attacking an opponent who creates brick-wall mid-court defence also helped, as he did most of the damage on the counter-attack.

Chen fought hard to close a five-point deficit to 19-19 in the second game, and might well have won had the match gone to a decider.

Instead he sent a smash wide on the next point, and then lifted the shuttlecock a little too short to defend against Tanongsak's attack on match point.

"Every player wants to win this title and I did too," said Chen, 28. "My ambition is to get back my form."

Lee Chong Wei, the top-seeded three-time former champion from Malaysia, survived for the second day with an ailing knee.

The 34-year-old proved himself once again a master of adaptability and economy by overcoming world No. 21 Wang Tzu-wei of Chinese Taipei. He defended economically, controlled most of the rallies at a pace at which he felt comfortable, and mixed up the patterns cleverly as he squeezed through 21-18, 21-18.

"I just tried to forget my injury," the world No. 1 said.

Defending champion Lin Dan, the three-time Olympic champion, also made the quarter-finals with a 21-16, 21-11 win over fellow Chinese Huang Yuxiang, and kept alive sentimental hopes of a Lee-Lin farewell showdown tomorrow.

One hour after Chen's defeat, the other reigning Olympic singles champion almost followed him out the exit. Spain's Carolina Marin was within two points of defeat at 17-19 in the second game against He Bingjiao, a 19-year-old left-hander who looks like China's next great women's singles hope, before surviving 15-21, 21-19, 21-10.

World No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying also reached the last eight, saving three game points in a 27-25, 21-11 win over Minatsu Mitani of Japan.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 11, 2017, with the headline 'Rusty Olympic champ Chen suffers All England exit'. Print Edition | Subscribe