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All England: Defending champ Li Xuerui shocked in first round

Dev Sukumar
EXPERT COLUMNIST
1.58K   //    06 Mar 2013, 23:01 IST

BADMINTON-HKG-OPEN

In one of the biggest upsets in recent badminton history, defending champion Li Xuerui was bounced out of the All England Open in the first round today.

Xuerui, also the Olympic champion and nearly unbeatable last year, suffered the shock 21-18 21-18 loss to Korea’s Bae Yeon Ju in 41 minutes. The Chinese top seed, who had won eight individual titles in 2012, including the Olympics, the All England and the Asian Championships, fell to her second straight loss to Bae Yeon Ju, who had also beaten her at the Korea Open last year. Bae recovered from a 14-17 deficit in the first game to win it at 18, but in the second she was dominant right through. There was a hint of Xuerui’s lack of form even before the tournament, as she had fallen unexpectedly in the quarterfinals of the German Open last week, but few expected her to exit in the first round of a tournament where she was defending the title.

China suffered a couple of unexpected reverses. Men’s singles third seed Du Pengyu lost an hour-long battle to Chou Tien Chen of Chinese Taipei, 21-17 10-21 21-18, while the men’s doubles fifth seeds Hong Wei/Shen Ye came up short against an unknown Polish pair, Lukasz Moren/ Wojciech Szkudlarczyk in three tight games. Men’s doubles favourites and Olympic champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng conceded a walkover to an Indonesian pair.

There were a few upsets elsewhere in the draw. Denmark’s Joachim Fischer and Christinna Pedersen, who were expected to perform well at the All England after winning the BWF Masters Finals and the Malaysia Open, were outplayed by the brother-sister duo from Indonesia, Markis Kido/Pia Bernadeth. Denmark had a disappointing day, with Viktor Axelsen, Hans Kristian Vittinghus and three other doubles pair exiting.

The other notable first round casualty was Taufik Hidayat. The former Olympic and Asian Games gold medallist could not get past Sho Sasaki and will bid farewell to the All England. Hidayat has announced he will be retiring later this year.

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Dev Sukumar
EXPERT COLUMNIST
Dev S Sukumar is the recipient of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Media Award, 2011. He is India's most widely travelled badminton writer, having covered several international tournaments, including the Olympics, the Asian Games, the CWG Games, World Championships, the All England, the Denmark Open, the Malaysia Open, etc. He has covered badminton for over ten years now. During this period he has met fascinating characters, witnessed great matches, and has authored a biography of Indian badminton great Prakash Padukone. He has written on the game for several publications, including Sports Illustrated, Mint, Badminton Asia magazine, The New Indian Express, Hindustan Times, DNA and IANS. He tweets at twitter.com/shuttlemania
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