No one expected this to happen so early.
Those who were eagerly awaiting a title clash between top seed Taufik Hidayat and world No. 2 Lin Dan were in for a shock as the former crashed out of the Asian Badminton Championships on Thursday.
Hidayat --- the world No. 4 and the top seed from Indonesia --- lost to unheralded Hsuan Yi Hsueh of Chinese Taipei 20-22, 16-21.
Hidayat looked weary and insipid for most part of the match. Even after losing the first game, the Indonesian looked distracted by the goings-on and was found stealing glimpses of the match underway at the adjacent court.
“Did I look tired?” the shuttler questioned after the match when someone asked if he was having some problems. “You try playing the game, and you will know,” snapped Taufik.
“I could make out that he was wearing out. So, I made full use of the opportunity and started rallying more often,” said an elated Hsueh.
In the second game, Taufik put some hard smashes to good use but Hsueh outplayed Hidayat at the net.
When asked what went wrong, a jittery Hidayat said: “I told you already I wasn’t moving well. My physical strength wasn’t supporting me today and my opponent played better.”
On the other hand, Hsueh couldn’t believe he had upstaged the top seed. For an unseeded player, beating the top-ranked player was an occasion to rejoice. “We met last year during the US Open and I lost that match,” said Hsueh.
“But today, it was my luck. I outplayed him to some extent in the first game. That gave me confidence and I took it into the second game as well.”
Hsueh won the last point on a deceptive stroke, which Hidayat played wide and subsequently made his way out of the event.
With the top contender out of the tournament, all eyes are now on China’s Lin Dan and Japan’s Kenichi Tago who registered convincing victories to cruise into the quarterfinals.
Meanwhile, after a series of injuries that kept her out for three months, Aditi Mutatkar made it to her first ever quarterfinals of the Asian Championships, defeating Hsiao Huan Chen of Chinese Taipei 23-21, 21-11.
Aditi couldn’t participate in the Uber Cup Asian Zone qualifiers last month, due to a heel injury but a quarters berth here compensated for the lay-off.
“The last tournament I played was the Guwahati Nationals in January. I never thought I would make it this far. Now, I am ready for the Uber Cup finals,” said Mutatkar. She is the second Indian contender after Saina Nehwal for the women’s singles title.