Veteran Chinese partners – Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng – have begun their quest to fill in the one missing gap on their badminton résumé.
The Men’s Doubles exponents, who have won just about everything in a glittering decade-long union, continued their hunt tonight for a first-ever Olympic gold medal – having copped silver four years ago.
The reigning world champions survived an early scare from German opponents, Ingo Kindervarter/Johannes Schoettler, who were up four game points in the opening game. That’s as far as the underdogs would get though as the ‘Cai-Fu Express’ (featured image) found another gear and motored on to take the first game 22-20.
In the second game, the Chinese – having shown a more defensive style in the early exchanges – returned to their better-known mode of attack, with Cai’s excellent short serve proving extremely troublesome. The favourites easily wrapped up the match, winning the second game 21-16, to make it two wins out of two matches at London 2012 so far.
Regarding Cai and Fu’s penchant for defending during certain patches of a match such as at the closing stage of the first game, Kindervarter said: “I’ve seen this pair do that before. I think when they are not succeeding from mid-court or attacking formations, they try to open up the court more by defending long and high.”
He rued the fact that he and his partner could not clinch the elusive one point to wrest the first game, watching the Chinese rebound from 17-20 down to win five successive points.
“I could have tried to flick serve but didn’t. When they reached 18 I tried to draw another mid-court return but Cai, to his credit, changed his usual service reply,” recounted the German.
In another Men’s Doubles battle, world number 20 pair, Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov of Russia, gave Danish rivals, Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen, something to think about. The Russians snatched the first game 21-16 against the more fancied former world number one twosome. However, the Danes bounced back, persisting with faster rallies, to capture the remaining games 21-14, 21-10.
Vietnam’s Tien Minh Nguyen also had to come from behind to defeat a spirited effort from Belgium’s Yuhan Tan in Men’s Singles group-stage action. The eventual scoreline was 17-21 21-14 21-10.
In Women’s Singles, Carolina Marin showed determination and talent against world number three Li Xuerui of China. In both the first and second games, the Spaniard stayed within one point of Li, who is this year’s fastest riser in the top 15, at the eleven points interval.
Marin succeeded in moving Li around the court but had no distinct weapons. The Chinese, on the other hand, used her height to good effect, smashing down the tramlines repeatedly to break free after each interval. She prevailed 21-13 21-11.