SINGAPORE - Indonesia's Anthony Sinisuka Ginting delivered the first major upset of the Singapore Badminton Open when he defeated China's Olympic champion Chen Long 21-8, 21-19 in their men's singles quarter-final on Friday (April 12).
In front of 4,600 fans at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, world No. 5 Chen got off to a 2-0 start, but the ninth-ranked Ginting then took over with a series of aggressive plays that dismantled his opponent's defence as he won the first game in just 14 minutes.
Chen managed to dig himself out of a 14-9 hole in the second game and regained control with a 18-16 lead. But, on the next point, Ginting's shot clipped the net cord which left Chen helpless and the Indonesian went on to seal the win.
Since he defeated Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei to win the Olympics men's singles gold at Rio 2016, Chen has been struggling to find form.
From 2013 to 2015, he won 15 titles including the 2014 and 2015 World Championships, but that dipped to just three in the last three years.
A visibly frustrated Chen blamed his defeat on the draft, but insisted he will continue to find ways to rediscover his mojo as he pursues "unfulfilled dreams" that include defending his Olympic men's singles title in Tokyo next year.
The 30-year-old said: "It is impossible to always be at the peak of your form. Even if you are an Olympic champion, you will lose at times, so I think that is normal."
In Saturday's semi-finals, Ginting, 22, will take on defending champion Chou Tien-chen, who beat India's Sameer Verma 21-10, 15-21, 21-15.
He said: "The net cord was the turning point as I wanted to avoid a third game. In the last three points, I changed my strategy to attack more and this made it difficult for Chen Long to defend. I need to focus on the next match now and find a way to beat Chou after losing to him in our last two meetings."
The other semi-final will be contested between Japan's world No. 1 Kento Momota and Denmark's world No. 3 Viktor Axelsen.
Both players were both taken to three games by India's Srikanth Kidambi and Indonesia's Jonatan Christie respectively.
Axelsen's 80-minute marathon against Christie was enthralling with both men fighting tooth and nail as the lead kept changing hands throughout the match.
After saving two match points, it was the Dane who prevailed 22-24, 21-18, 24-22 as he pumped his fists in the air and threw his wristband to the appreciative crowd. By comparison, Momota cruised in the decider to beat Kidambi 21-18, 19-21, 21-9.
"Sports is about emotions. If you're not allowed to show emotions, we're justmachines running around in court. Badminton is my passion, I put my whole soul in it. So I want to show this means a lot to me," said Axelsen.
In the women's singles, the top four seeds prevailed as world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying defeated South Korea's world No. 10 Sung Ji Hyun 21-11, 17-21, 21-16.
The Taiwanese's backhand prowess and superb shuttlecock placement left Sung befuddled and she dropped a game only because of her own unforced errors.
In the semi-finals, Tai will face Japan's world No. 4 Akane Yamaguchi, who beat Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon 21-13, 21-17 in a repeat of last week's Malaysia Open final.
The other semi-final will pit Japan's world No. 3 Nozumi Okuhara against India's world No. 6 P. V. Sindhu.
On her clash with Yamaguchi, Tai said: "I don't feel extra confident just because I beat her last week. During my match, I was secretly watching Akane on the next court and she played very well today."