Young and fearless, the energetic duo won the hearts of badminton aficionados in Wembley Arena as they romped towards the Men’s Doubles quarter-finals with a dominant 21-15 21-14 performance versus the fourth-seeded Koreans.
Less than 24 hours after announcing their gutsy Olympic ambitions by impressively outclassing Indonesia’s world number six seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Bona Septano 21-11 21-16, the baby-faced assassins showed Saturday’s result was no fluke.
As if saying “Our names are Bodin and Maneepong – you better remember us!” they attacked from the first point with a fiery, take-no-prisoners style; hardly giving the Koreans room to breathe, furthermore regroup. The outcome all but assures the two 21-year-olds (pictured right) will progress from Group B.
While these fireworks took place on centre court, sensational drama unfolded next door in a see-saw Women’s Doubles match that could have gone either way. Once again, the script featured a highly-seeded pair under siege from bold rivals of lesser ranking.
World number four ranked Japanese, Mizuki Fujii and Reika Kakiiwa, had to summon all their experience to fend off the sterling challenge of Singaporeans Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari with a gritty 16-21 21-10 21-19 display. Both teams received a standing ovation after the gruelling 82-minute encounter. Such was the intensity that one rally lasted an incredible 72 strokes!
The Singaporeans took the first game but, once the Japanese settled in, it was evident the post-lunch battle would be long. Fujii and Kakiiwa were at their defensive best, luring the Singaporeans into exhausting rallies and taking the match to a third game. The Japanese recovered from a deficit to earn four match points at 20-16, but Yao Lie and Sari looked to defy the odds, clawing back three points in a row.
The Japanese shouted in delight as they earned the winning point with an agonising drop shot by Fujii as an inconsolable Yao Lie slipped in mid-court, unable to retrieve the shuttlecock.
“When the Singaporeans were catching up at 18-20 we tried to think positively, we were still ahead,” said Mizuki Fujii. “We didn't have a problem with the long rallies. Japanese players are used to those.”
Sari was disappointed by the tight loss.
“We lacked coordination in the last five points (despite previously leading). Hopefully there will be a chance to still qualify for the quarter-finals.”
In Women’s Singles action, India’s Saina Nehwal thrashed Sabrina Jaquet of Switzerland 21-9 21-4 while Japan’s Sayaka Sato was troubled by Slovenian Maja Trvdy but still won in straight games. Yip Pui Yin (Hong Kong) and Yao Jie (Netherlands) were unperturbed by lesser-rated opponents.
Men’s Singles medal contender Chen Long of China qualified for the last 16 after he beat Boonsak Ponsana, the only other player in Group E. The third seed was tested briefly but his opponent failed to maintain his consistency at critical points. Others who joined Chen in the quarter-finals were Lee Hyun-Il of Korea and Sho Sasaki of Japan. Birthday boy and ninth seed Simon Santoso quickly dismissed Estonian Raul Must's challenge.
Meanwhile, in one of the toughest Mixed Doubles groups, former world champions Thomas Laybourn and Kamilla Rytter-Juhl handed a crushing loss to V Diju and Jwala Gutta of India. All England champions Tontowi Ahmad and Lilyana Natsir have already won both their matches in Group C, leaving Danish pair – Laybourn and Rytter-Juhl – in a tense contest with Lee Yong Dae/Ha Eun Jung for the second quarter-final place.
Another impressive performance was the Men’s Doubles victory by Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong over Howard Bach and Tony Gunawan of the USA. The former world champions might have fancied an upset, but the Malaysians never gave them a chance with a polished 21-12 21-14 rout.
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Ko (left) and Yoo (right), who were 2011 World Championships silver medalists here in London last year, were clearly stretched the distance by the young and fearless Thais.
Pure ecstasy! Japan's Fujii (left) and Kakiwaa (right) pipped Singapore's Yao/Shinta in 21-19 in the tiebreaker to win the epic 82-minute battle.
While over in the Singapore camp, it's clearly heartbreak as Yao Lei fell to the ground unable to retrieve the winning shot that sent the Japanese to the top of their group.