BIRMINGHAM (AFP) — World champion Zhu Lin went crashing out of the first round of the All-England Open championships, complaining of feeling too tired.
The seventh-seeded Chinese player was hardly in it after the first game of a 21-17, 21-11 defeat to her compatriot Jiang Yan-jiao, in which she finished looking too lethargic to seriously contest the outcome.
For a while, as she led 11-6 and 16-10, Zhu’s fine movement looked as though it might take her to a routine victory over a colleague still ranked outside the top 20.
But when that suddenly slowed, her ability to win points almost halted altogether, and Jiang, finding clever angles with her left-handed attacks, took nine in a row.
That effectively sealed the first game, and from 6-6 in the second game Jiang took seven points in a row, with the frail-looking Zhu ended the match looking physically and emotionally shattered.
Her efforts in losing a long three-game final against Wang Yihan at the German Open in Mulheim only three days before may well have left her with insufficient time to recover.
“I felt all right coming here, but then I felt too tired in the second game,” admitted Zhu. “My game depends a lot on running, and so maybe that affected my form.”
Asked why her form sometimes reached very high levels but also sunk lower than some of her rivals, Zhu answered: “It’s normal to have this when your physical strength is not as great as other players.”
Jiang next plays Bae Youn Joo, a lucky loser from Korea who became a winner when she overcame Salajkit Ponsana of Thailand. If Jiang wins again she could play another compatriot, Lu Lan, the world number three.
All the other top names came through satisfactorily, though Tine Rasmussen, the top-seeded titleholder from Denmark had to come from 6-9 and 8-11 down in the first game before producing too many attacking weapons for Xing Aiying, the China-born Singaporean in a 21-17, 21-15 victory, and the two former All-England champions, Xie Xingfang, and Zhou Mi, both won comfortably in the other half.
One seed was beaten in the men’s singles, Przemyslaw Wacha, the number eight from Poland, who looked as though he was about to go to three sets until Sho Sasaki, the improving left-handed Japanese player, made a late push to oust him 21-15, 22-20.
However the top-seeded Lee Chong Wei had to fight very hard to avoid an early exit, trailing by a game and 13-15 before surviving 19-21, 21-16, 21-11 against the dashing young Chinese player Lu Yi.
Lee swivelled round in annoyance when he went two points down in the second game, but he began to look more like his usual spectacular attacking self after he produced a five-point surge to turn the match around.
Once he had levelled things he raced to a 6-0 lead in the deciding game and was well on top thereafter.
“It took me a set (a game) to get used to things and to get into it. But in the third set I did feel quite comfortable,” said Lee, who made no bones about wishing to play a final against Lin Dan here on Sunday.
Lee lost to the brilliant Chinese player in the Olympics and was asked if this had affected his confidence in any way.
“No, because I have prepared very well,” the Malaysian replied. “The All-England is going to be quite important for me.”
Later Lee’s great rival Lin Dan also made the last 16, easing past Anup Sridhar of India 21-13, 21-14 and ensuring that at least one Chinese player reaches the quarter-finals, because he next plays his compatriot Bao Chunlai, the former world number two.