ALL ENGLAND R32 – Bad day for title holders

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Vladimir Ivanov, Ivan Sozonov, Nozomi Okuhara, Debby Susanto and Praveen Jordan returned to Birmingham as title holders but all suffered early exits at the 2017 All England Championships, ensuring that three categories will have new champions for the 2017 edition.

By Tarek Hafi, Badzine Correspondent live in Birmingham.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

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Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov reached the climax of their career last year when they splendidly won the highest Superseries of all, defeating numerous top players en route to the final, still Denmark’s Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding (pictured top showed no sign of nervousness while face the Russian.

The Danes once again assured their fans of their fantastic form, sending the title holders back home in straight games 21-11, 21-15 in only thirty-eight minutes.

We had some moments in the second game, but we made way too many unforced errors.  We will now have to rewatch the match and see what did not go right,” confessed Ivan Sozonov after the match, adding that the status of title holder was not a burden on their shoulders.

In fact, with the loss by two-time champions Boe/Mogensen, only two past men’s doubles champions are still in the event, both of them in new partnerships.  Hendra Setiawan went down in his pairing with 2007 champion Tan Boon Heong.  They were beaten by Gideon/Sukamuljo.  However, Setiawan’s partner from his 2014 win, Mohammad Ahsan, is still in it with his new partner Rian Agung Saputro and they will take on China’s Lu/Zheng, who were responsible for the Danes’ exit.

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2013 winner Liu Xiaolong is in a brand-new pairing with Xu Chen (pictured above) and together they beat Hiroyuki Endo, who had lost the final to Liu 4 years ago.  The Chinese duo will take on the top-seeded Goh/Tan next.

Saina’s rebirth

Only a few months ago, badminton could have been history for Saina Nehwal (pictured) after she went through complicated surgery on her right knee.  However, the Indian is widely known to be stronger against adversity and fought her way back to the game bravely.  Her first-round opponent, defending champion Nozomi Okuhara, witnessed the spirit of Nehwal as she found no element that enabled her to confront her opponent and was swept away by the power of Saina Nehwal in two.

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“It was definitely a surprise for me.  It was a tough match.  She plays really well and is the defending champion here.  She made me move a lot, but despite the pain left in my knee it was a great match,” admitted Saina Nehwal in her post-match interview.

Chen and Jia out

They certainly belonged among the contenders to the title in Birmingham, particularly after their Superseries wins last year in Paris and Dubai.  However, fate chose to not accompany Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan to the tournament and were ousted from the All England as early as the first round.

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Close to being unbeatable in the last few months, the new Chinese jewel faced – as they had in the China Open late last year – a tough challenge in the name of Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto (pictured above).  The two Japanese ladies gave their very best to overshadow Chen and Jia and, after an hour and seventeen minutes, won 15-21, 28-26, 21-18.

Flu 1, Debby 0

Debby Susanto (pictured, with Praveen Jordan) was clearly not in shape while entering the court at the Barclay Arena.  The Indonesian appeared after her match very exhausted and almost unable to speak due to a severe flu that struck her two days ago, preventing her from adding power of from giving a hundred percent of her capacity.  A difficult situation led to a difficult loss against Japanese youngsters Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino (pictured bottom), leaving the draw wide open to a new winner.

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