Women's Olympic badminton champion has narrow escape
Li Xuerui of China hits a return in Kuala Lumpur on January 19, 2014 - by Kamal Sellehuddin
Top-seeded Li slipped to a 13-16 deficit in the final game against Busanan, the world number 17, and was on the verge of exiting at 19-20 down.
But the Chinese player averted disaster with a brave smash combined with a quick kill, and then snatched the win by eliciting two successive errors from her opponent with accurate lifts and tenacious defence.
"My only thought was to keep on fighting, because as the match is not finished anything can happen," said Li.
"I didn't think about last year here, but it did remind me of the world championships when I had quite a big slip - and I am trying psychologically to teach myself."
This was a reference to a narrow defeat in the world final to Ratchanok Intanon, the Thai teenager whom the seedings say should meet Li in Saturday's semi-finals here, and who also struggled in her opening match.
Intanon was a game and 5-7 down to Gu Juan, the highly energetic world number 21 from Singapore, and in real danger of defeat at 17-17 in the decider, before coming through 20-22, 21-15, 21-18.
It was a match where attacks were difficult to force through but the uncomplaining Intanon would only say that it imbued the rallies "with a lot more possibilities."
She was also pleasantly philosophical about her scare. "When you come so close to disaster, something good has to come from it," she said.
While they survived several of their fellow seeds went out.
Tommy Sugiarto, the number three from Indonesia, Jan Jorgensen, the number four from Denmark, Du Pengyu, the number seven from China, and Tien Minh Nguyen, the number eight from Vietnam, were all beaten, while both Kenichi Tago, the number five from Japan, and Chen Long, the number two from China, struggled to get through in three games.
It made things look good for Lee Chong Wei, the world number one from Malaysia, whose bid to regain the title began with a 21-15, 21-17 win over Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, and who cannot now face a seed before the semi-finals.
"It was the first match so I didn't play so well," said Lee, though he played better than last year, when he, like Li, had to save a match point to survive.
"Next time I hope to be better," he added.
Next time is against his compatriot Chong Wei Feng, who won in straight games against Marc Zwiebler, the German who was a semi-finalist three years ago.
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