Both upsets were in Men’s Singles. Former World Championships runner-up Sony Dwi Kuncoro (Indonesia, 10) and Wong Wing Ki (Hong Kong, 12) were shown the door.
While the favourites breezed through, there was some interesting action featuring lesser-known stars. Of these, Men’s Singles third seed Du Pengyu’s (China) contest against Son Wan Ho (Korea) was an engrossing script – the “comeback man” versus a player whose career has thus far been spent in the shadow of more illustrious team-mates Lin Dan and Chen Long. Du hasn’t been in the spotlight although he is seeded third and won his first major title – the Badminton Asia Championship – a few months ago.
He was given a stiff test by Son and, although he won the final game comfortably, the match stretched to 85 minutes. Son, who enjoyed brief success early last year winning the India Open Superseries before his post-Olympic career was derailed due to injury, played close to his best. After some initial tentativeness, he settled into a nice rhythm, denting Du’s confidence with excellent defence and soft play at the net. Some inconsistency from Son late in the first game helped Du clinch it, but the Korean dominated the second. Du appeared to be searching for answers as Son resisted the heavy fire from his Chinese rival inside the Tianhe Indoor Gymnasium in Guangzhou.
The third game though was all Du’s as Son flagged physically and the tireless hometown player maintained his quick pace for a 21-17 16-21 21-13 victory. Du faces Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (Thailand) in the second round.
Another surprise in Men’s Singles was 12th seed Wong Wing Ki’s (Hong Kong) demise at the hands of a rejuvenated Ajay Jayaram (centre above). The Indian only just recovered from a viral fever last week and said he had to “dig deep” in the third game to win the 64-minute battle.
“I knew it was going to be a tough match and had to put in my full effort to pull through,” said Jayaram. “The shuttles were slow and I had to play patiently waiting for my chances… I was struggling with my fitness as I had recovered from sickness. But I dug in deep in the final set, keeping the shuttle in play without conceding too many errors. I’m very happy with my performance today. I fought hard both mentally and physically, displayed good variation of both attack and defence.”
Jayaram takes on Spain’s Pablo Abian next. “He is a runner and this hall will suit his style of play so I’ll have to put in my best effort and be patient. I will need to create the openings before going for the attack.”
Men’s Singles tenth seed Sony Dwi Kuncoro, who has been out of form this year, was beaten by Derek Wong (Singapore; left) 24-22 21-16. Another disappointment for Indonesia was the downfall of Simon Santoso to Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Jen Hao (BWF home page) - 11-21 21-14 22-20. Eighth seed Tommy Sugiarto managed to avoid the same fate as his compatriots, surviving a close tussle with Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Denmark) 21-18 15-21 21-17, while another Dane, Jan O Jorgensen, held off a spirited Lee Dong Keun (Korea) 21-16 17-21 21-15. Promising young Dane Viktor Axelsen also advanced to the second round, beating Finland’s Ville Lang 21-4 21-15.
* The ‘big three’ in Men’s Singles – defending champion Lin Dan (China), top seed Lee Chong Wei (Malaysia) and second seed Chen Long (China) – barely broke a sweat in their first appearances. Lin Dan dismissed Sattawat Pongnairat (USA) 21-6 21-9, while Chen Long was even more ruthless against Luka Wraber (Austria), 21-2 21-5. Lee Chong Wei spent 40 minutes dismantling the challenge of Scott Evans (Ireland) 21-14 21-15.
* Pongnairat’s USA team-mates Paula Lynn Obanana/Eva Lee (right) held off Ukraine’s Yulia Kazarinova/Anna Kobceva 22-20 17-21 21-13 in Women’s Doubles.
* India’s Ashwini Ponnappa suffered twin blows today, losing both her doubles matches in close three games. Ponnappa and Mixed Doubles partner Tarun Kona were edged out by Hirokatsu Hashimoto/Miyuki Maeda (Japan) 21-18 12-21 21-19 earlier in the day. Ponnappa returned for her Women’s Doubles match with Pradnya Gadre against Line Damkjaer Kruse/Marie Ropke (Denmark), with the Danes winning 21-23 21-18 21-17.
For full results from the Wang Lao Ji BWF World Championships 2013, please click here.