Saturday, August 13, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
The pressure of Olympic competition finally claimed its big victims, with World champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan bowing out this morning.
The day also saw the exit of London 2012 bronze medallists Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen (Denmark), who were outplayed in three games by familiar rivals and London silver medallists Xu Chen/Ma Jin (China). But perhaps the most dramatic of the session’s matches was the come-from-behind victory of Poland’s Robert Mateusiak/Nadiezda Zieba over Great Britain’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock.
In a must-win situation in their final Men’s Doubles Group D match against China’s Chai Biao and Hong Wei (featured image), Indonesians Ahsan and Setiawan delivered an underwhelming performance, crashing out in straight games: 21-15 21-17.
Unable to display their characteristic dominance of the front court, and failing to entangle their opponents with their typical quick and clever game, Ahsan and Setiawan could not build on a small lead in the second.
“We should have taken advantage of the second game lead,” said Setiawan. “Once they caught up with us, we were unable to get the lead again. We’d prepared well for this event; I’m so disappointed.”
The session saw another surprise, with China’s Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan crashing in three games to Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong to finish second in Group C behind the Malaysians.
Both matches in Mixed Doubles Group B were do-or-die battles. Mateusiak and Zieba, having beaten Xu Chen/Ma Jin yesterday, yet again showed they were far from done at the elite level. The Polish pair fought off a big deficit in the second game and saved a couple of match points to force a third game in which the Adcocks crumbled: 18-21 27-25 21-9.
“We didn’t start well, and when we were down we kept reminding each other to fight, that this is our last Olympics,” said Mateusiak. “They didn’t allow us to play the drive game in the beginning but we kept pushing. We just focussed point by point. I guess in the third they were still thinking about the second game.”
Xu and Ma finally brought their big game on court after shaky performances over the last two days. Both pairs needed the win to stay alive in the competition, and the match was every bit as close as many of their earlier contests. Xu was far more aggressive and consistent, and with Ma Jin patrolling the net well, it was always going to be tough for the Danes, who were done in by a few errors in the third game.
“Xu played very well today; yesterday he looked like an old man, but he wasn’t old today!” said a downcast Fischer.
“Our game doesn’t suit them. We want to play in the front court and they have Ma Jin, she’s so strong. We’ve both been top in the top four or five for seven years now, we’ve been fighting each other for so long. We gave everything we had but they were also very strong. We weren’t ready mentally yesterday, but today we gave everything. In these tournaments you need some luck also.”
In Women’s Doubles, Korea’s Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee earned a hard-fought win over second seeds Tang Yuanting/Yu Yang (China) to finish Group D victors.
In a match of all-out, open badminton, Chang and Lee showed they were unafraid of inviting Tang to attack, parrying her big smashes with stern defence that eventually frustrated the Chinese.
“Today we followed exactly what our coach told us,” said Chang Ye Na. “We’ve lost a few times to them because we tend to sometimes do our own thing, but today we followed it all the way through. We’ve spent a lot of time training on our defence, so we weren’t scared to let Tang Yuanting keep smashing at us.”
Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari finished atop Group C with a narrow 21-19 21-19 win over Malaysia’s Vivian Hoo/Woon Khe Wei.
Women’s Singles action saw Malaysia’s Tee Jing Yi outplay Kristina Gavnholt after a contentious first game, 22-20 21-15. Singapore’s Liang Xiaoyu handled France’s Delphine Lansac without much trouble, posting a 21-7 21-15 result.
Men’s Singles second seed Chen Long wasn’t required to use all his weapons as he deftly put away Poland’s Adrian Dziolko 21-12 21-9, while Japan’s Sho Sasaki was pushed hard the way by Czech Republic’s Petr Koukal, coming away winner in three games. Canada’s Martin Giuffre and Cuba’s Osleni Guerrero were too fast and powerful for their opponents, Portugal’s Pedro Martins and USA’s Howard Shu, respectively.