September 18, 2019
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Yamaguchi crashes out of badminton World Championships; Prannoy upsets Lin

Basel, Switzerland, Aug 20 (efe-epa).- Japanese world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi lost her opening women's singles match at the 2019 BWF World Championships, falling to Singapore's Yeo Jia Min 21-14, 21-18 here Tuesday in the biggest upset of the tournament so far.

Yamaguchi appeared to still be struggling with a recent hip injury and at times seemed hesitant to make a full stretch to retrieve the shuttle.

But the 20-year-old Yeo also showcased her wide array of badminton skills during the 40-minute contest at the St. Jakobshalle arena in Basel, effortlessly jerking Yamaguchi around the court and occasionally finishing off points with stunning reflex winners and sharply angled drop shots that left her opponent stranded.

The second-round match started out in surprisingly lopsided fashion, with the Singaporean playing nearly flawlessly in jumping out to a 16-6 lead and then cruising to a routine first-set win.

Although she continued to lack her usual quickness and defensive prowess in the second game, the top-seeded Yamaguchi managed to get her teeth into the match and snagged an 11-9 lead at the mid-game interval after winning four straight points.

Yeo was slightly better down the stretch, however, making the score 19-17 with a phenomenal point in which she showed delicate touch at the net, outstanding deceptive skills and finally perfect accuracy on a smash that clipped the line.

The final two points for the Singaporean came on a pair of errors wide of the sideline by Yamaguchi, who became the first-ever women's singles top seed to lose her opening match at a BWF World Championships.

"From the start, I tried to focus on every point and not to make simple errors like I used to do and I tried to control my emotions," Yeo, who had defeated Turkey's Aliye Demirbag 21-13, 21-13 in her first-round match on Monday, was quoted as saying afterward on the BWF World Championships' Web site.

"She's very good in defense, so I tried to be patient and find chances to attack."

The 22-year-old Yamaguchi, who won back-to-back titles in July at the Indonesia Open and the Japan Open to wrest the No. 1 spot away from longtime holder Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei, said she was not feeling any pain on court but acknowledged that her recent hip injury had affected her training.

"I couldn't get into my rhythm. I was surprised by the opponent and got lured into her style of playing," the Japanese star said. "I wasn't in peak condition and I didn't reach some parts of the court as fast as I usually do."

Next up for Yeo in the third round will be Vietnam's Vu Thi Trang, who upset 15th-seeded Dane Line Kjaersfeldt 21-19, 13-21, 21-11 on Tuesday.

In other action Tuesday, Japanese world No. 1 and defending men's singles world champion Kento Momota brushed aside Spain's Luis Enrique Peñalver 21-10, 21-7 to secure a berth in the third round.

But his expected opponent at that phase, China's Lin Dan, crashed out of the tournament with a 21-11, 13-21, 21-7 loss to India's H.S. Prannoy.

As occurred on Monday in a straight-game victory over Vietnam's Cao Cuong Pham, Momota used his all-around skill and precision to dominate the proceedings.

The Japanese star raced out to an 8-0 lead with a combination of smash winners and unforced errors by Peñalver, who sought unsuccessfully to find any chink in his opponent's armor.

Although the Spaniard managed get to double digits by winning four of the last seven points, Momota wrapped up the first game with an overhead drop shot winner.

Momota continued to outclass Peñalver throughout the second game, finishing off the victory in 34 minutes with a crosscourt smash winner.

When the draw was released, many badminton fans started looking forward to a potential third-round battle between Momota and the 35-year-old Lin, a five-time world champion and two-time Olympic gold medalist who is widely regarded as the greatest men's singles player of all time.

But the Chinese superstar's loss to the 30th-ranked Prannoy on Tuesday raises serious questions about his continuance in the sport and his chances of qualifying for one last Olympic Games next year in Tokyo.

Each country can send a maximum of two players, meaning that the 17th-ranked Lin would have to move past either third-ranked Shi Yuqi or fifth-ranked Chen Long by the April 30, 2020 cutoff date. EFE-EPA

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