Pi fights back to book last eight berth

MANCHESTER, England: Pi Hongyan, who is seeking to become the first French international ever to win a European badminton title, believes her chances of making a piece of sporting history were put at risk Thursday by an out-of-kilter schedule.The top-seeded Parisian duly reached the quarter-finals of the women’s singles with a 21-18, 21-5 win over Camilla Sorensen, the second best Danish player, but had to pull back a large deficit before she did.

Pi, who is also seeking to become the fourth successive Asia-raised player to win this title, blamed her slow start on a 50-minute delay about which she had not been warned.

“It was a long time to wait after warming up for 40 minutes, because then I had to cool down again, and try to warm up once more.

“So when it came to the match I started soft in the body and not very excited.

“She (Sorensen) seemed to know about the delay, because she stopped warming up, but we didn’t. When I started I was slow in the legs and she was controlling (the rallies).

“She made some tricky shots and it seemed like I was always late, and I had to fight hard to get in the game. If she had won the first, the match might have been different.”

By the time Pi started to feel better she was 13-18 down, having just made a complete air shot with a round-the-head smash at a shuttle which came straight out of a dazzling light.

From then on though Pi moved the shuttle around calmly and accurately, and the mistakes started to come from her opponent’s racket far more frequently.

She took eight points in a row to snatch the first game, and after that the match changed character utterly. Sorensen looked physically under much more stress and from 5-10 down was unable to win another point.

“By then I was faster,” said Pi. “She still had some tricks but I was able to get to them.”

She now has a tough encounter with Petya Nedelcheva, the fifth-seeded Bulgarian who beat Liz Cann, the English national champion, 21-13, 21-15, and looked in impressive form.

Nedelcheva also beat Pi ten months ago in the Singapore Open, the winner is likely to have a semi-final with Julian Schenk, who beat Pi at last month’s All-England championships.

However the adopted French player believes she is significantly fitter than a month ago and is taking heart from her ability to survive.

Another China-raised player, Yao Jie, also had to fight back before reaching the quarter-finals, trailing 9-15 in the first game against Karin Schnaase before coming through 21-16, 21-7.

Yao took ten points in a row to turn the first game around, something she attributes to acquiring more patience and reducing mistakes.

The 2002 European champion from The Netherlands thought there were other reasons, outside her control, which contributed to her early problems.

“I was not happy with the shuttles,” she said. “We seemed to start with fast shuttles and then they got slower and slower. I haven’t thought to mention it because I don’t think they would listen to me.”

Yao now plays Ella Diehl, the sixth seeded Russian, and another victory could earn her a meeting with Tine Rasmussen, the All-England Open champion, who was not at her best but did enough to get through 21-15, 21-18 against Linda Zechiri, the left-handed Bulgarian.

Rasmussen’s Danish compatriot, the top-seeded Peter Gade, was not far from a sensational defeat in the third round of the men’s singles. The former world number one was a game and 19-16 up against Raul Must, the world number 54 from Estonia before unaccountably letting his advantage slip. Gade was then only three points from defeat when he also let a six-point lead in the final game slip to one at 19-18 before getting home 21-15, 19-21, 21-18. — AFP

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