BIRMINGHAM: Tommy Sugiarto, winner of the Singapore Open last year and finalist at last month’s Malaysian Open, was sent crashing out by a qualifier in the first round at the All-England Open on Wednesday. The world number three from Indonesia twice appeared to have turned the match around, and was foiled only in the last few points by Gao Huan, an impressively resilient Chinese player. The 24-year-old from Liaoning won 21-13, 10-21, 21-18, making good use of his familiarity with the conditions from his two matches in the qualifying competition to squeeze out the best win of his career.
Sugiarto attacked impressively to turn the match around in the second game, and then repaired a five-point deficit to lead 16-15 in the decider before Gao prevailed. “It definitely helped me playing the qualifying,” Gao said. “It helped me get used to the conditions. At the same time I nearly lost to the Russian (Vladimir Ivanov) so there can be two sides to the story. In the end it was Gao’s skill in playing out the long rallies with the slowish shuttles, and picking his moments carefully to apply pressure, which made the difference. He next plays his compatriot Wang Zhengming, the runner-up in the China Open at Shanghai, who overcame Sony Dwi Kuncoro, the former Olympic bronze medallist from Indonesia, in straight games.
Two other front runners, Ratchanok Intanon, the women’s world champion from Thailand, and Kenichi Tago, the fifth-seeded former All-England runner-up from Malaysia, both had to battle hard to survive. Tago was a game and 7-10 down to Kashyap Parupalli, the Commonwealth bronze medallist from India, and within three points of a straight games defeat, before struggling laboriously back to a 14-21, 21-19, 21-7 win.
Intanon was a game and 5-7 down to Gu Juan, the highly energetic world number 21 from Singapore, and also in real danger of defeat at 17-17 in the decider, before coming through 20-22, 21-15, 21-18. “My form has recently not been so good,” a relieved-looking Intanon said. “It’s not anything to do with my performance today,” the 19-year-old added, as if there might be hidden reasons for the modest level of play by her standards. Asked if she felt she could go one better than last year, when she had an amazing run to the final, Intanon downplayed it. “I will try to reach the quarterfinals,” she replied, “and then see who my opponent is.” She next plays the winner between Yu Sun, the world number 33 from China and P V Sindhu, the rising world number 11 from India.
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