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 quarter-final yesterday.
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 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.
Ginting said: "The net cord was the turning point as I wanted to avoid a third game... I changed my strategy to attack more and this made it difficult for Chen Long to defend."
Since he defeated Malaysian great Lee Chong Wei to win gold at Rio 2016, Chen has been struggling. From 2013 to 2015, he won 15 events, including the 2014 and 2015 world titles, but he is down to three titles in the last three years.
A visibly frustrated Chen blamed the draught but insisted he will continue to find ways to rediscover his mojo as he pursues "unfulfilled dreams", that include defending his Olympic title at Tokyo 2020.
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 today's semi-finals, Ginting, 22, will play defending champion Chou Tien-chen, who beat India's Sameer Verma 21-10, 15-21, 21-15.
Japan's world No. 1 Kento Momota and Denmark's No. 3 Viktor Axelsen will contest the other semi-final. Both players were 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 fighting tooth and nail in a see-saw match.
After saving two match points, it was the Dane who prevailed 22-24, 21-18, 24-22, and he pumped his fists in the air and threw his wristband to the crowd.
He said: "Badminton is my passion, I put my whole soul in it. So I want to show this means a lot to me."
In contrast, Momota cruised in the decider to win 21-18, 19-21, 21-9.
In the women's singles, the top four seeds remained as world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying beat No. 10 Sung Ji-hyun 21-11, 17-21, 21-16.
The Taiwanese's backhand prowess and superb placement left the South Korean befuddled and she dropped a game only because of her own unforced errors.
In the semi-finals, Tai will face Japan's No. 4 Akane Yamaguchi, who beat Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon 21-13, 21-17 in a repeat of last week's Malaysia Open final.
Tai said: "I don't feel extra confident just because I beat her last week. "
Japan's world No. 3 Nozumi Okuhara faces India's No. 6 P.V. Sindhu in the other semi-final.
S-finals: Singapore Indoor Stadium. StarHub Ch201, 1pm