While PV Sindhu’s first-round defeat came as a surprise (albeit against a proven performer in Sung Ji Hyun), that was hardly the biggest upset on day one at at the All England Open badminton championships in Birmingham.
Two of the game’s biggest names — China’s Lin Dan and Chen Long — who have won a total of eight titles between them, both suffered shock first round defeats at the year’s first marquee tournament.
While Dan is not the force he once was, he was still the runner-up last year and has a knack of performing at the big events and that is why Kanta Tsuneyama’s defeat of the Chinese megastar, with a scoreline of 19-21 21-14 21-7, was one of the biggest results on the first day that saw many a seed fall across categories.
Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long Angus defeated eighth seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and Denmark’s Rasmus Genke downed Chinese fourth seed Chen Long.
Long, the reigning Olympic gold winner, wasted a 14-9 lead in the second set before crashing out 21-15, 21-17. Gemke termed this the biggest win of his career.
“It’s my biggest achievement and I’m very happy. He’s one of the best in the world and has been at the top for ten years, so I knew I had to be 100 per cent ready from the start. I think he was a bit nervous and made a few mistakes in the first game, but he got better in the second and I had to keep my level high all the time,” said Gemke.
Dan, who won the title here six times, and Chen, the 2013 and 2015 winner, had never been sent packing in the first round, reported Xinhua news agency.
Third seed Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei also made a shock exit as he was beaten by China’s Huang Yuxiang 21-14, 16-21, 24-22. Kenta Nishimoto of Japan went past fifth seed and former world No 1 Son Wan Ho of South Korea 23-21, 14-5 as the latter retired hurt.
In the women’s singles Sung Ji Hyun prevailed over fifth seed Sindhu in a thrilling match-up, where the Indian star had to save as many as eight match points before eventually going down. The other big upset in women’s singles was two-time All England runner-up Ratchanok Intanon.
The seventh seed from Thailand was ousted by unseeded Chen Xiaoxin from China 21-23, 24-22, 21-14 in a 75-minute encounter. Xiaoxin earned her first win over Intanon in six matches after saving a match point.
Nicknamed the Minions, two-time men’s doubles champions Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo lost out to Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan as well. The Japanese pair were the top seeds in men’s doubles and were defeated 21-19, 20-22, 21-17 in a 67-minute marathon.
He Jiting and Tan Qiang also sent the second seeds in men’s doubles packing, defeating Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen 18-21, 21-18, 24-22 in 56 minutes.
In women’s doubles, Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi — reigning Olympic champions and 2016 All England winners — were beaten by Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Jung Kyung Eun, 21-17, 10-21, 21-19. The Japanese pair were the second seeds at this year’s event.