US Open Badminton 2018: After two-year injury layoff, Li Xuerui wins second straight tournament
What's the story?
On Sunday. former Olympic champion Li Xuerui overcame Beiwen Zhang in the final of the US Open to win her second successive individual title following her return from injury. The 27-year-old beat top-seed Zhang 24-26, 21-15, 21-11 in a gruelling encounter that lasted 60 minutes in Fullerton, California.
In case you didn't know...
Two years back, Li, alongside the now-retired Wang Yihan, used to rule the women's singles circuit. However, during the semifinal match against Carolina Marin at the 2016 Rio Olympics, she sustained a severe injury on her knee that forced her to take a nearly two-year hiatus. Li had suffered a rupture of the ACL and a strain on the lateral meniscus as well.
Li's injury also signalled the end of the Chinese dominance in women's singles as none of the country's youngsters could win a single Superseries title in 2017.
After a gap of 600 days, Li finally returned to court at the China Masters in April, a tournament she went on to win. She then took part in the Uber Cup team championship before stepping foot at the US Open, which was her third tournament since her return.
The heart of the matter
Li, who came through the qualifiers at the tournament, had to make a comeback after losing the opening game narrowly. Zhang, who had won the India Open back in February, kept her calm to take the first game 26-24.
The second game, much like the first game, started off close and was tied at 10-10. However, this time it was Li who went on a run, scoring 11 of the next 16 points, and won the game, 21-15. The third game proceeded in a similar fashion with Li springing ahead after the score was tied, 8-8, en route to a 21-11 win.
Elsewhere, Korea’s Lee Dong Keun, who had upset Lin Dan in the first round, beat Mark Caljouw 14-21, 21-17, 21-16 in the final to claim the men’s singles title – his biggest win since the 2015 Korea Masters.
With this win, Li Xuerui has taken another step towards regaining her place among the world’s elite. The title won will also give her 7,000 ranking points. The shuttler, who has won 24 international titles, will next play at the Canada Open starting this week.
How soon do you think Li will challenge the likes of Tai Tzu Ying, PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal amongst others in the International circuit? Join the discussion in the comments section.