It is a clash of similar styles. It is a battle between two devout believers of God. It is the current world No 4 and world No 5. Jonatan Christie versus Chou Tien Chen was, even before the match started, expected to be a cracking, long match. In the 10 matches before this one where they have met, seven had gone the distance with three games.

And so it proved, as Christie defeated Chou 21-15, 13-21, 22-20 in 71 minutes with a spirited display and let out a roar in the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall in New Delhi, after securing a spot in the semifinal of the India Open Super 750 event on Friday.

The last game scoreline is especially significant as it was a repeat of the quarterfinals result from their meeting at the World Championships last year. In that match, it was Christie who had match points (five of them) which Chou saved by winning seven straight points and clinched an epic game 22-20. It was the difference between winning a medal and going home empty-handed.

On Friday in Delhi, it was Chou who had match points (two of them) which Christie saved to prevail with four straight points.

Reminded about that, Christie said with a smile: “It was my time today.”

Both players were fully aware too that they would be pushing each other to the limits. Christie, the Asian Games champion from 2018, started well and took the opening game. The second game saw Chou, the man who loves playing three-game matches, take things to the distance again. The decider was thrill-a-minute badminton as the rallies became gruelling by the minute. But Christie prevailed in the end and came up with an emotional celebration.

“First of all, I want to thank God, because without him I already lose,” Christie told BWF in the mixed zone after the match. “From 18-20, I just try my best and everything in my power. Luck was with me. Every time I play against him is a very tough match, not easy to play against him. I already prepared for a very long match.”

The Indonesian as well as Taipei shuttlers both thanked the fans for their support, as the match came to a thrilling conclusion.

Other results of the day

Former three-time world junior champion Kunlavat Vitidsarn upset third seed and last edition’s finalist Loh Kean Yew of Singapore while sixth seed Indonesian Anthony Ginting was forced to dig deep by Li Shi Feng of China in the men’s singles quarterfinals.

Vitidsarn adopted a slow and steady game plan to defeat Loh 21-12, 21-17 while Ginting fought back from a 6-10 deficit in the decider to beat Li 21-11, 17-21, 21-18. Top seed Viktor Axelsen of Denmark also advanced to the semifinals after his opponent Rasmus Gemke had to be taken off the court on a wheelchair after a fall.

“Gemke is a friend of mine, so it was tough to see him go out like that,” said Axelsen after the match. “Not at all what I’d hoped for today. So at this point I’m a little bit shocked. I wish him a speedy recovery. For myself, I just need a few hours to digest it and then I know I will be ready for another match tomorrow.”

In women’s singles, top seed Akane Yamaguchi of Japan got the better of Spaniard Carolina Marin 21-17, 14-21, 21-9 and will now face Thailand’s Supanida Katethong, who got a walkover from third seed Chen Yu Fei citing illness. The other women’s singles semifinal will see second seed An Se Young of South Korea face China’s He Bingjiao.

While there were quite a few interesting match ups in the last-eight round, the clash between former junior and senior world champions was probably the most sought after given their different style of play. Loh won the World Championships title in 2021.

Loh started strong and raced to a 11-7 lead before Vitidsarn bagged 12 straight points to pocket the opening game. The second game was a much closer affair but the Thai kept his nerves under pressure and clinched four consecutive points from 17-17 to set up a semifinal clash against Ginting.

The women’s singles quarterfinal between Yamaguchi and Marin looked like it was heading for a humdinger with both players locked at 5-5 in the decider. But the Japanese simply raised the bar and raced to victory in an hour and four minutes.

In men’s doubles, former world No 1 pairing of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo lost in straight games 12-21, 18-21 against the exciting Chinese pairing of Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang.

Key Results:

Men’s singles: 1-Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt Rasmus Gemke (Den) 16-8 (retd); 6-Anthony Ginting (Ina) bt Li Shi Feng (Chn) 21-11, 17-21, 21-18; 8-Kunlavat Vitidsarn (Tha) bt Loh Kean Yew (Sin) 21-12, 21-17, Jonatan Christie (INA) bt Chou Tien Chen (TPE) 21-15 13-21 22-20

Women’s singles: 1-Akane Yamaguchi (Jpn) bt Carolina Marin (Esp) 21-17, 14-21, 21-9; 2-An Se Young (Kor) bt Pornpawee Chochuwong (Tha) 21-14, 21-14; 4-He Bingjiao (Chn) bt Beiwen Zhang (USA) 21-13, 21-19

Men’s doubles: 3-Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik (Mas) bt Ong Yew Sin/Teo Ee Yi (Mas) 21-17, 21-11

Mixed doubles: 1-Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong (Chn) bt 8-Thom Gicquel/Delphine Delrue (Fra) 14-21, 21-15, 21-12; 3-Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino (Jpn) bt 5-Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung (Kor) 21-15, 21-18.

With BAI media inputs