OLYMPICS/Taiwan's Chou survives nailbiter to enter badminton quarterfinals

07/28/2021 10:26 PM
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Chou Tien-chen. CNA file photo
Chou Tien-chen. CNA file photo

Taipei, July 28 (CNA) Taiwan's top male badminton player Chou Tien-chen (周天成) eked out a narrow victory Wednesday against an unseeded Canadian opponent to advance to the quarterfinals of the men's singles competition at the Tokyo Olympics.

Chou, the world's No. 4 player, came into Wednesday's group play match as the heavy favorite against 19-year-old Canadian Brian Yang, after easily brushing aside Felix Burestedt of Sweden 21-12, 21-11 earlier this week.

Wednesday's match, however, turned out to be unexpectedly close, as Chou barely held on, taking the first game 21-18, before Yang clawed back from a four-point deficit to win the second game 21-16.

In the deciding third game, Chou jumped off to an early seven-point lead, only to see Yang pull even, as the game came down to the wire. In the clutch, however, the 31-year-old Taiwanese veteran was able to pull through, edging Yang 22-20.

In an interview after the match, Chou said he and Yang have a similar tempo of play, and he commended the Canadian for making few unforced errors and maintaining excellent control.

His own performance, Chou said, had suffered because he failed to capitalize on multiple scoring opportunities, which sank the match into a "stalemate."

This year's men's singles event divided players into 14 groups of three players each for a series of round-robin matches. The winners of 12 of the 14 groups will advance to play each other in an elimination round.

The winners of the groups containing the tournament's top two seeds, meanwhile -- including Chou who is seeded second -- can bypass the elimination round for automatic berths in the quarterfinals.

In the quarterfinals on Saturday, Chou will face off against the winner of a match between the defending gold medalist -- sixth-seeded Chen Long (諶龍) of China -- and Lee Zii-jia (李梓嘉) of Malaysia, who is seeded ninth.

Meanwhile, Taiwan's other player in the men's singles competition, 10th-seeded Wang Tzu-wei (王子維), also secured a spot in the elimination round Wednesday with a 21-12, 18-21, 21-12 victory over Nhat Nguyen of Ireland.

Wang will take on Viktor Axelson of Denmark, the tournament's fourth seed, on Thursday.

(By Lung Po-an and Matthew Mazzetta)

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