The Dubai World Superseries Finals produced two stunning upsets with defending men's and women's champions Viktor Axelsen and Tai Tzu-ying both suffering defeats on Day 2 at the Hamdan Sports Complex on Thursday.
Shi Yuqi of China rallied from a game down to outclass Axelsen, the Danish World No 1, 13-21 21-18 21-17 in 1 hour, 13 minutes in their first ever meeting in the men’s singles.
Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand proved her opening day win over two-time Dubai runner-up Sung Ji-hyun was no fluke by seeing off Chinese Taipei's Tzu-ying in straight games 21-18 21-17.
Yuqi, 21, made a remarkable comeback after trailing 11-6 at the change-over in the final game. He then clawed back from 17-14 down to win seven successive points to clinch the game and the match.
“It was my first match against Axelsen; I was unfamiliar with his game initially, and I took some time to get used to it,” Yuqi said.
“I wasn’t frustrated when I lost the first game. Viktor smashes very hard, so I’d decided that even when he smashed past me, I wouldn’t dwell on it.
“I tried to minimise my unforced errors. It’s all gone well so far for me with two wins. It feels magical in my first World Superseries Finals.”
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Axelsen next meets Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen, who outclassed Indian Kidambi Srikanth 21-18 21-18, in the final Group B game with the winner progressing to Saturday's semi-finals.
Meanwhile, in Group A, Hong Kong’s Ng Ka Long kept himself in the hunt for a place in the final four by beating top seed Son Wan-ho of South Korea.
“I’m very excited,” said Ng. “I’m in a tough group and the target was to win a match in the group, so I met my target and I’m hoping to secure a place in the semi-finals.
“Both of us were running out of stamina. What made the difference was that I was more determined. It was tiring, but I kept telling myself that I have to be focused.”
Victory saw Intanon edge ahead of Tzu-ying 10-9 in their head-to-head meetings.
“We both play a similar style,” Intanon said. “That also helps me anticipate her shots better. Most of our contests are very close. I’m very happy with the way I played at the end of both games.”
In Group A, top seed Akane Yamaguchi of Japan notched up her second win of the tournament after overcoming China’s He Bingjiao who suffered her second loss in the competition.
Ng Ka Long Nagus (HK) bt Son Wan-ho (KOR) 21-15 13-21 21-16.
Shi Yuqi (CHN) bt Viktor Axelsen (DEN) 13-21 21-18 21-17, Chou Tien Chen (TPE) bt Kidambi Srikanth (IND) 21-18 21-18.
Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) bt He Bingjiao (CHN) 21-15 13-21 21-8.
Ratchanok Intanon (THA) bt Tai Tzu-ying (TPE) 21-18 21-17, Chen Yufei (CHN) bt Sung Ji-hyun (KOR) 21-16 21-13.
Mads Conrad-Petersen/Mads Kolding (DEN) bt Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen (CHN) 21-14 21-13.
Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan (CHN) bt Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi (JPN) 21-18 21-15, Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (DEN) bt Lee Jhe-huei/Lee Yang (TPE) 21-14 21-19.
Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto (JPN) bt Huang Yaqiong/Yu Xiaohan (CHN) 21-16 21-16, Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan (CHN) bt Chang Ye-na/Lee So-hee (KOR) 21-14 21-17.
Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota (JPN) bt Jung Kyung-eun/Shin Seung-chan (KOR) 21-18 21-13, Kamilla Juhl/Christinna Pedersen (DEN) bt Hsu Ya Ching/Wu Ti Jung (TPE) 20-22 21-13 21-17.
Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet (CHN) bt Kenta Kazuno/Ayane Kurihara (JPN) 21-16 16-21 21-6.
Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping (CHN) bt Chris Adcock/Gabrielle Adcock (ENG) 21-14 21-17.