BIRMINGHAM, England — Former Olympic and World champion Taufik Hidayat had to survive a slow start and a controversial decision before making a winning start to his bid to win the 100th All-England Open.
Taufik was surprisingly outplayed early on, and became annoyed by a line call when he seemed on the way to victory in the final game, before surviving 17-21, 21-11, 21-12 against Hu Yun, the world number 28 from Korea.
The fourth-seeded Indonesian still believes he can to win the world’s oldest title, even though it is ten years since he reached the second of his two All-England finals.
Well into his 30th year, Taufik still looked fast and dangerous once he gained his momentum.
"I’m happy but I think that it is a bit too early to be able to say how I’m playing," Taufik said.
"I made too many mistakes in the first set."
Taufik recovered with a sharper focus and by raising the speed of the rallies. He also reduced errors at the net which contributed to his first set lead of 12-8 slipping away.
The impact was immediate. Hu had contained well and threatened with sudden attacks, but from early in the second game he was mostly under pressure.
Taufik won that game well and reached 12-2 in the third game, before an explosion of emotion briefly allowed the mobile Korean the sight of a comeback.
It happened when Hu was at 8-14 and struck a smash near the backhand sideline. Taufik felt it was out, but the line judge called it in, and the Indonesian responded crossly.
He glared at the line judge, stalked around in circles, squatted at the net, and complained to the umpire. But over-ruling on a far line was impossible.
It helped Hu get back to 11-15, at which stage Taufik produced a superb wrong-footing net shot return of serve which left the Korean stranded. It also restored Taufik’s momentum, and shortly it was all over.
"I know it is very difficult to get this title, having been a finalist in the past," Taufik said. "But I am going to try very hard this year. I have been training harder."
Later however a men’s singles seed did go out. It was, though, not such a great surprise because Chen Long, the 2007 world junior champion from China, merely underlined just how rapidly he is improving with a comprehensive 21-16, 21-10 victory over Jan Jorgensen, the eighth-seeded Dane.
Chen’s movement was fast, balanced, and pressurising. There were moments in the second game when Jorgensen tried to mix up his tactics more and he seemed to be making headway at 8-7.
But the Chinese player responded with some ultra-high speed rallies, some ambushing smashes, and a level of energy that was hard to match. It carried him to a surge of eight points in a row which effectively finished the match.
Before the finish Jorgensen wore a resigned look, when he left he started to go in the wrong direction, and when confronted by the media was too upset to offer immediate explanations.