PV Sindhu, Nozomi Okuhara and Ratchanok Intanon put in dominant displays as the leading contenders for women’s singles glory proved their worth at the YONEX All England Open.
We are now down to eight in all five disciplines and few look as fascinating as the race to succeed Tai Tzu-ying as champion at Utilita Arena Birmingham.
Sindhu was particularly impressive in her second round success over Line Christophersen, demolishing her Danish opponent 21-8 21-8 in just 25 minutes. When the reigning world champion turns it on, few in the game can deal with her.
“Even though I took a huge lead, I never gave any points in between and didn’t make unforced errors. I felt very focused,” said the Indian megastar.
On the prospect of a quarter-final tie against third seed Akane Yamaguchi, she said: “It’s been more than a year since I played her. I have to be prepared for her to come with new tactics and new strategy. I’m enjoying this tournament and hopefully I enjoy the rest of the week.”
Okuhara, who beat Sindhu in the final of the 2017 World Championships, was almost equally as convincing in beating Bulgaria’s Linda Zetchiri 21-6 21-13. She won eight consecutive points in the first game to lay the platform for the win.
And Ratchanok Intanon was in pugnacious form as the day’s most emphatic smash underlined her 21-14 21-13 win over USA’s Iris Wang. The Thai, joined by compatriot Busanan Ongbamrungphan, is slated for one of the more intriguing quarter-finals against Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt.
Elsewhere, both Kento Momota and Viktor Axelsen improved on lacklustre first round displays by beating Indians Sai Praneeth and H.S Prannoy respectively.
“I’m very satisfied today with the match. I tried my best,” said Momota, who won 21-15 21-14. “I was a little bit worried about my opponent. He [Prannoy] was a very tough player but I assess my play as good today.”
Axelsen dropped the first set 21-15 but overpowered his opponent in the next two games, both going his way 21-12.
“I feel slightly better than yesterday,” said the reigning All England champion.
“I don’t feel I played the most beautiful badminton of my career today but a win is a win and I’m really happy I managed to get through.”
The biggest shock in the doubles draw was the exit of the Stoeva sisters from the women’s doubles, beaten 21-17 21-10 by Ashwini Ponappa and N. Sikki Reddy.
Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge won the battle of the English in the men’s doubles over debutants Callum Hemming and Steven Stallwood.
All three seeded English doubles pairings progressed, although Ellis’s victory alongside Lauren Smith in the mixed was not to their satisfaction.
They edged Danish opponents Rasmus Espersen and Christine Busch 21-19 in the first game and gradually took control to seal the second 21-13.
“I think we just chose the wrong tactics, playing in quite a small court, which is where they’re strong,” said Smith.
“It certainly wasn’t the prettiest or best game we’ve ever played. It would have been quite easy to get down and dejected. Credit goes to our character in that moment.”