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Defending champion Li knocked out on Day One

Defending men’s singles champion Li Shi Feng suffered a shock first-round defeat on the opening day of the YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships 2024. 

The Chinese player entered the tournament as the third seed but lost in straight games to Toma Junior Popov of France, suffering a 21-17 21-13 defeat.

Popov entered his tie with Li having only recently recovered from an injury but delivered a confident performance to set up an encounter with Koki Watanabe of Japan.

“I told myself I had nothing to lose going into it,” Popov said. “I don’t think I played a super game, I just played with consistency and pressure, and he maybe made some mistakes that put my confidence up.

“So it was really nice to feel the arena and I could hear people behind me so it pushed me a little bit also.”

Popov followed his brother Christo in triumphing on 12Bet Court after the younger Frenchman won on his debut in the men’s singles, beating Lee Cheuk Yiu of Hong Kong 22-20 17-21 21-16.

The two then combined in the men’s doubles but suffered a straight games defeat to Danish fifth seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen.

Men’s singles top seed Viktor Axelsen of Denmark emerged through his encounter with Kidambi Srikanth unscathed, winning 21-9 21-9.

The other defending champions in action on Day 1, Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong of China, breezed through their opening mixed doubles encounter.

The top seeds beat Vinson Chiu and Jennie Gai of the United States 21-6 21-11 as they search for a third YONEX All England title as a pairing.

They will face Denmark’s Mathias Christiansen and Alexandra Boje after they won an enthralling battle with Hiroki Midorikawa and Natsu Saito of Japan, advancing 22-24 21-14 21-14.

The English crowd were treated to a tense all-English mixed doubles match as Lauren Smith and Marcus Ellis triumphed 19-21 21-16 22-20 over Greg and Jenny Mairs.

Smith said: “I would say it wasn’t the best game any of us on the court have ever played, I think it’s also so nervy and quite a difficult atmosphere playing your countrymen.

“We know each other so well, there’s a different kind of pressure in there and the game really could have gone either way.

“Obviously, we are absolutely elated to have taken it, it feels great to be on the winning side of it.”

Smith and Ellis will face Dejan Ferdinansyah and Gloria Emmanuelle Widjaja of Indonesia after they beat out Chinese fifth seeds Jiang Zhen Bang and Wei Ya Xin.

The Indonesians were the one of four matches to see a seed knocked out and they did so in style, with a 21-10 21-16 win.

Another seed to lose was H S Prannoy of India, who was knocked out in a decider by Su Li Yang of Chinese Taipei.

The final seed to taste defeat on Tuesday were the women’s doubles eighth seeds Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara.

The Japanese pairing reached the quarter-finals last year, but were undone by their compatriots, Rena Miyaura and Ayako Sakuramoto, who won 21-15 17-21 21-15.

The triumphant duo are a new pairing to the YONEX All England and worked hard to learn the conditions of the court.

Rena said: “Depending on which side of the court we were on the shuttlecocks ran more.

“So we decided to talk together and say once we are on the receiving side we will persevere and when we are on the good side, we will play our game”

“It was a game of perseverance.”

Be part of All The Action at the All England. Tickets are still available at allenglandbadminton.com. 

Can’t be in Birmingham this week? You can still see badminton’s most prestigious tournament play out on BBC Sport and TNT Sports. Don’t miss a minute!


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