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Hong Kong Open: Day 3 - Abdul Latif Stuns Hu Yun

Young Malaysian Mohammad Arif Abdul Latif entered a Superseries quarter-final for the first time by breaking the hearts of local fans at the Yonex Sunrise Hong Kong Open today.

Abdul Latif, 23, shocked hometown hope and world No. 15 Hu Yun 21-17 21-17 in the Men’s Singles second round to achieve the biggest result of his four-year international career.

“I’ve been consistent at the Grand Prix Gold level,” said Latif. “But this is my best result in a Superseries.”

The Negeri Sembilan native, who reached the Bitburger Open semi-final recently, is a trainee of coach Hendrawan. Latif displayed good intensity through the match, and even though Hu Yun (left) recovered from 12-15 down in the second game to level at 15-all, Latif kept his composure. A jump smash at match point sealed his entry into the last-eight and a date against sixth seed Kenichi Tago (Japan). Latif’s senior compatriot Lee Chong Wei (1) ensured his place in the quarters overcoming a strong challenge from India’s Ajay Jayaram 21-18 21-19, while second seed Chen Long (China) had no problems in getting past French Open champion Daren Liew 21-8 21-13.

Jayaram stayed close to Lee in both games but the wrong choice of shots at critical moments cost him dearly. At 18-all in the first game, he drove into the net with Lee caught off-position, while in the second, at 19-all, he gifted the Malaysian a point by flicking a serve high, which Lee smashed down for match point.

“I was comfortable with the pace,” said Jayaram. “I should never have served high to Lee, because he’s so quick.”

The day was unusual for three retirements due to injury. Kashyap Parupalli, who had scored a memorable win against Jan O Jorgensen in the first round, retired early in his second round Men’s Singles match against Tommy Sugiarto of Indonesia due to an abdominal muscle injury.

“I’d picked it up last week but today it was really bad. I just couldn’t play any stroke,” said Parupalli.

Women’s Singles saw two retirements. China’s Chen Xiao Jia was locked in a tense battle with Germany’s fifth seed Juliane Schenk (21-14 21-22) when she hurt her ankle and had to be taken to hospital. French Open champion Minatsu Mitani (Japan) had pushed top seed Wang Yihan (China) close in the first game at 21-19, but could not continue beyond 10-12 in the second game.

There were also some surprise results in the quests for places among the last eight. Fourth seed Wang Shixian (China) was dismissed by Thailand’s Porntip Buranaprasertsuk (right) 21-17 12-21 23-21. Eighth seed Sung Ji Hyun’s (Korea) ambitions were thwarted by an ecstatic Pai Hsiao Ma of Chinese Taipei. The Korean lost 14-21 21-9 19-21.

“I have never beat her before but I’m confident now. This is my first time in the Superseries quarter-finals,” said Pai, declaring her sights are set on reaching the top ten.

Former world champion Wang Lin (left) of China caused the biggest upset of the third day by beating 2010 Hong Kong Open champion Saina Nehwal in straight games. Wang, who has been on the comeback trail after dropping out of the top ten, defeated Nehwal 21-19 21-15. 

The Indian was philosophical about her loss. “I wasn’t feeling 100 percent,” she said. “You can’t be at your best all the time. Wang is playing well.”

In Men’s Doubles, top seeds Koo Kien Keat/Tang Boon Heong (Malaysia) held off a tough early challenge from Chris Adcock/Andrew Ellis to enter the quarter-finals, and were then granted a walkover into the semi-finals by Lee Yong Dae/Ko Sung Hyun (Korea). Second seeds Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng (right) were tested in the first two games by Pranaav Chopra/Akshay Dewalkar, but the young Indians were left clueless in the third game as the Chinese romped home 23-21 19-21 21-6.

As expected, China had strong results in the other two doubles events. Olympic champions and top seeds Qing Tian/Zhao Yunlei, seventh seeds Bao Yixin/Tang Jinhua and last week’s China Open champions Yu Yang/Wang Xiaoli made it to the last eight of Women’s Doubles, while in Mixed Doubles, favourite Xu Chen/Ma Jin and second seeds Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei eased through.

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