The ‘group of death’ – Mixed Doubles Group B – lived up to its billing with two sensational results this morning.
Poland’s Robert Mateusiak and Nadiezda Zieba avenged a hurt that’s been with them for four years, knocking down China’s Xu Chen/Ma Jin; Great Britain’s Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock then threw the group wide open shocking Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen/Christinna Pedersen.
Mateusiak and Zieba’s last Olympics in London had ended bitterly for them, as they had blown a match point in the quarter-finals against the Chinese. Displaying the same tactical cleverness that they had employed in their opening match yesterday, Mateusiak and Zieba drew the sting out of their opponents and looked set for a fairytale victory at 20-18 in the third. After the Chinese saved the first match point, Mateusiak decided this was going to be his moment.
“At 19-20 I played soft and was alert for the shuttle and I finished it with my favourite drive,” he said. “I’ve learned from our last loss. Last time I waited for the shuttle, but this time I was ready for it. It’s a shame we didn’t do this four years ago.”
“We’ve waited four years for this,” Zieba added. “This match was our revenge. Despite losing the first game we knew the second would be better. We were still feeling the effects of yesterday’s match in our legs.”
Not long after, the Adcocks displayed great temperament in shrugging off a close second game loss to storm back against Fischer and Pedersen for their first victory over the Danes in five matches.
“We couldn’t have asked for a harder group,” said Gabrielle Adcock. “It’s turned out to be the most exciting group. It was really difficult to come to terms with yesterday’s loss after holding match point. We thought about how we’d performed and we knew we had to put the loss behind us. We knew we had played great, and if we continued the same way, we had a chance. We’re very confident now.”
Yonex All England champions Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto and defending Olympic gold medallists Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei (China) ensured their place in the quarter-finals by winning their second straight match in Group A. Zhang/Zhao were untroubled by Hong Kong’s Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah, while Jordan/Susanto were equally dismissive of Germany’s Michael Fuchs/Birgit Michels.
In Men’s Doubles, World champions Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan fell to the rampaging form of Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa 21-17 16-21 21-14 in the most difficult group (D) of the category. Group C saw a surprise result, with Great Britain’s Chris Langridge/Marcus Ellis prevailing in a nervy finish to beat third seeds Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang (Korea) on their fifth match point.
Top seeds Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong (Korea) survived a difficult encounter against Chinese Taipei’s Lee Sheng Mu/Tsai Chia Hsin – the relief on converting match point was evident as the two Koreans celebrated as if they’d won the tournament.
The big surprise in Women’s Singles was the upset of Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin by Estonia’s Kati Tolmoff: 5-21 21-13 21-19. Czech Republic’s Kristina Gavnholt also promised an upset, but Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi recovered from a first-game loss to prevail in three.
In Women’s Doubles, Dutch duo Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek confirmed their berth in the quarter-finals by beating India’s Jwala Gutta/Ashwini Ponnappa in Group A: 21-16 16-21 21-17.
“It means the world to qualify for the quarter-finals,” said Piek. “We were a bit tense in the third, we started thinking too much and I was struggling with my serve. They’re a bit different from other pairs – it’s mostly short rallies and they play tactical. Physically and mentally, we’re in the best shape we’ve ever been.”
Top seeds Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi were the other quarter-final qualifiers from Group A with their defeat of Thailand’s Sapsiree Taerattanachai/Puttita Supajirakul.
Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee also won their second straight match, beating Johanna Goliszewski/Carla Nelte in an hour-long bout in Group D. Malaysia’s Vivian Hoo/Woon Khe Wei likewise confirmed their quarter-finals spot with an easy 21-15 21-13 result over Hong Kong’s Poon Lok Yan/Tse Ying Suet.
Ireland’s Scott Evans pulled off his career’s first win over Germany’s Marc Zwiebler in Men’s Singles Group K, and hinted it could’ve been nerves that got the better of his opponent.
“I’ve trained with him a lot of times and never beaten him. He’s won eight matches against me. He was leading me in the third and it became 14-6 from 6-4, so you could see he was getting nervous. I’m thankful for my training in Denmark – I’ve been there for 12 years now and they’ve really helped me train at a very high level,” Evans said.