Top-ranked badminton players Xie Xingfang and Lin Dan of China both survived scares from unseeded opponents to win their opening-round matches Wednesday at the Thailand Open Grand Prix Gold.
Women's world No. 1 Xie needed three games to dispatch Julia Pei Xian Wong of Malaysia 21-17, 19-21, 21-19 in a surprisingly tight match that went down to the wire.
The deciding game was a back-and-forth affair, with the two trading the lead several times. Wong found herself on the verge of an upset at 19-19 before Xie took the final two points for the match.
Xingfang Xie, shown here at a tournament in Switzerland in March, needed a strong finish to dispatch her first-round opponent at the Thai Open. (Georgios Kefalas/Keystone/Associated Press)
Xie moves on to face Indonesia's Yuswandari Aprillia on Thursday, with a spot in the quarter-finals on the line.
Lin — the world's top men's player and Xie's boyfriend — also required three games to knock off his first-round opponent, unseeded Thai qualifier Pakkawat Vilailak.
"Super Dan" started well, taking the first game 21-14. But Vilailak fought back, scoring eight straight points to lead 9-1 en route to taking the second game 21-17. Lin, though, closed out the match with a convincing 21-14 win in the deciding game.
Lin moves on to face Hsieh Yu-hsin of Chinese Taipei in the second round.