BIRMINGHAM: China began its campaign to win back the All-England Open women’s singles title with two of its former winners making impressively comfortable starts.
Xie Xingfang, the fifth-seeded All-England champion of 2006 and 2007, showed much of her familiar light-footed movement and sharp-eyed alertness for an opening as she got past a Korean qualifier. Zhou Mi, the second-seeded 2003 All-England champion who these days represents Hong Kong, exuded calm and adaptability as she played her way into the tournament with an accelerating victory over a Malaysian lucky loser.
“No problems getting used to the arena, and I don’t ever get nervous,” claimed Xie after her 21-9, 21-7 win over Jang Soo Young. “I very much hope I will get to the final.” If she does she is likely to do so at the expense of Zhou, who won 21-16, 21-9 against Li Ya Cheah. One more win each and the two Chinese stars will play each other in the quarter-finals. Three other Chinese hopes, Zhu Lin, the world champion, Lu Lan, the third seed, and Wang Lin, the sixth seed, are in the other half, with Tine Rasmussen, the top-seeded titleholder from Denmark.
Rasmussen, who created a sensation by becoming the first non-Asian for seven years to win the women’s singles last year, was due to begin her defence of the title with a tough first round against Xing Aiying, the 19-year-old China-born Singaporean who already has a win over Zhou to her credit. Later, men’s defending champion Chen Jin laboured a little to get through his opening encounter, against Kenicho Tago, a nimble and tenacious Japanese opponent. The third-seeded Chinese player tried to increase the pace of the rallies from 13-15 down in the second game, but was unable to make it work till midway through the third of his 21-7, 15-21, 21-14 win. afp