Day Three Review: Defending champions fall on day of shocks
The All England has rarely known days like today.
Seeds tumbled and three defending champions were knocked out in a frantic day of action at the Utilita Arena Birmingham.
Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida, Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino, and Viktor Axelsen all exited stage left, leaving the door open for potential new champions in 2023.
Matsuyama and Shida were the first of the three to lose, fading towards the end of their contest against Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee.
The second seeds were physically outlasted by the South Koreans, who triumphed 18-21 21-19 21-9.
There will however be Japanese representation at the last eight stage, Wakana Nagahara and Mayu Matsumoto ending home interest with a confident display against Chloe Birch and Lauren Smith.
Third seeds Zhang Shu Xian and Zheng Yu managed to avoid the early-stage seed exodus with victory over Frenchwomen Margot Lambert and Ann Tran, as did eighth seeds Apriyani Rahayu and Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti.
However there are still several other surprise packages with Treesa Jolly and Gayatri Gopichand Pullela, and Li Wen Mei and Liu Xuan Xuan – both unseeded pairings – reaching the last eight on Thursday.
Watanabe and Higashino’s departure from the tournament was in much more unfortunate circumstances.
The Japanese pairing were looking for a third title in a row in Birmingham and had impressed in their opening round, the second seeds once again among the leading contenders.
However they were up against it early on against Kim Won Ho and Jeong Na Eun, and trailing 23-21 13-7, the pair were forced to retire with Watanabe struggling with injury.
Their exit will likely make top seeds Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong favourites for glory.
The Chinese did not have an easy time of it themselves, but ultimately managed to see off Chun Hei Reginald Lee and Tsz Yau Ng 20-22 21-14 21-18.
They next face Yuki Kaneko and Misaki Matsutomo, who upset sixth seeds Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing on Thursday.
Meng and Jing were not the only seeds to taste defeat, with fourth seeds Thom Gicquel and Delphine Derue crashing out in straight games to Indonesia’s Rehan Naufal Kusharjanto and Lisa Ayu Kusumawait.
A second unseeded Japanese pairing – Kyohei Yamashita and Naru Shinoya – also found their way into the last eight, in a draw that could be there for the taking.
Axelsen’s exit to Ng Tze Yong may have been the most shocking of them all.
The great Dane dropped the opening game but was far more convincing in the second, winning it 21-9.
And after the Malaysian had originally led in the decider, the two-time champion again rallied and held two match points, at 20-19 and 21-20 up.
But Tze Yong used all his grit and determination to save both match points and ultimately convert a first of his own, sinking onto his knees in front of a stunned crowd following a 21-18 9-21 23-21 victory.
Axelsen’s loss followed on from compatriot Anders Antonsen defeating 2022 runner-up Lakshya Sen in straight games, meaning neither of last year’s finalists have reached even the last eight.
Li Shifeng has also defied his unseeded status to reach the last eight, the Chinese star beating compatriot Zhao Jiapeng in a convincing victory.
However third seed Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and seventh seed Kodai Naraoka both avoided slip-ups, reaching the last eight stage.
Amid the chaos elsewhere, it’s been largely business as usual in the women’s singles draw.
Second seed and 2022 champion An-Se Young was perhaps the most impressive, the South Korean dispatching Pai Yu Po with ease in a 21-3 21-7 triumph.
Victory booked a date with seventh seed and 2015 champion Carolina Marin, who marked her return to the tournament with victory over Beiwen Zhang.
Defending champion and top seed Akane Yamaguchi and three-time champion Tai Tzu-Ying – third seed this year – were also largely untroubled as they reached the last eight, as were China’s He Bingjiao and Chen Yufei.
Only one unseeded player – Gregoria Mariska Tunjung – remains in the draw after her victory versus Lalinrat Chaiwan, becoming the first Indonesian to reach this stage in women’s singles in ten years.
Defending men’s doubles champions Muhammad Shohibul Fikri and Bagas Maulana battled their way past eighth seeds Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi to reach back-to-back quarter-finals in Birmingham.
Having edged a tight opening game, the Indonesians won seven straight points from 18-14 down in the second to seal a 21-18 21-18 victory.
Fikri and Mauluna will next play top seeds and fellow Indonesians Fajar Alfian and Muhammad Rian Ardianto, who overcame Lee Jhe-Huei and Yang Po-Hsuan.
Joining them in the last eight are fourth seeds Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi, the Japanese fending off Scot’s Alexander Dunn and Adam Hall 21-17 21-17 to progress.
‘Daddies’ Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan also progressed, as did fifth seeds Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi.
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