All England 2013

Tine Baun, the twice former All England champion from Denmark, kept her career going for at least one more day by recovering from 14-18 down in the second game to win 21-13, 22-20 against Li Han, the world number 15 from China.

It was a fine performance from the 33-year-old who retires at the end of the tournament but who nevertheless was able to generate spells of attack as good as ever they had been.

By her standards she seemed remarkably free of tension. “I was mentally clear and knew what to do,” she said. “I was just happy to be on court and happy to buy myself one more day.”

“I felt good because if I lost it would have been okay. I would have lost to a very good, up and coming Chinese young player.”

“But every emotion was there and I wanted to show her that I wasn’t afraid and that I wanted to win.”

Baun made a wonderful start, surging into a six-point lead which helped settle any nerves, and when she ran into difficulties in the second game she fought with spirit, courage, and good tactical mixtures.

It was however the threat of her heavy smash, still probably the best in the women’s game, as well as its effects, which dominated the patterns of the contest.

At the same time Li’s movement, patience, consistency, and ability to manoeuvre and defend, made a fine contrast in styles with the tall attacker, while the outcome ensured that there would be another episode in the long lasting story one of the tournament’s greatest crowd favourites.

Baun’s first match point came when she delivered a well-masked overhead drop which appeared to touch the sideline, though Li thought otherwise. Hands on hips, she stood expressing disbelief, eventually challenging the umpire about the call. There was never any chance he would over-rule the line judge on the far sideline.

On the penultimate point Baun was made to defend and contain, to stretch hard to make a sequence of net shots, and to find any way she could to earn a second match point. A third game risked anti-climax.

She achieved that when Li was harried into a net shot mistake. Baun’s winning shot then followed a low serve – a trademark smash, which brought a celebration with a dialogue of decibels and gestures between winner and crowd.

It made Baun certain of a quarter-final match against the unseeded Lindaweni Fanetri of Indonesia, who knocked out the 2011 world champion Wang Yihan of China to gain her quarter-final place.  The heroine of the previous day, Bae Yeon Ju, will not however be challenging her for it.

The South Korean caused perhaps the biggest upset in the history of the century-old tournament with a first round win over Li Xuerui, the Olympic and All England champion, but now Bae was agonisingly beaten 20-22, 22-20, 21-19 by Eriko Hirose, the world number 14 from Japan

Match point up at 20-19 in the second game, Bae pressed steadily and well during a long and dramatic rally, several times looking likely to win it. Then Hirose, better known as a courageous defender, suddenly let fly with a counter-attacking smash which hurtled for a brilliant winner.

“I thought I was in a winning position there,” said Bae. “I can hardly believe it. So I am very disappointed.” Even worse for her Hirose also came back from 12-17 down in the decider to earn herself a quarter-final with another Korean, Sung Ji-Hyun.

Later they were joined in the last eight by Wang Shixian, the Chinese player who won the All England title two years ago, and Saina Nehwal, the Commonwealth champion from India who is the highest seed remaining.


Richard Eaton