Petr Koukal came within three points of creating a major upset on the first day of the Yonex German Open in Mülheim against top seed and world number 2 Chen from China. No one, let alone Koukal himself, expected to be in the position he found himself after taking the opening game 23-21 and when leading 10-5 in the second a major upset looked on the cards.
Chen Long, the Super Series champion from 2012, looked a little shaken at the mid game interval but managed to step up a gear sensing the match was drifting away from him.
The increased tempo forced Koukal into committing to many unforced errors which resulted in the Chinese taking the second set and sending the game into a deciding rubber. Many expected the world number 2 to crush Koukal in third game but once again Chen Long stuttered to a one point mid game interval lead.
The Chinese, as he did in the second game, cranked up the tempo and had the Czech number 1 trailing in his wake at 18-12 but once again the gutsy Czech battled and fought his way back, and when trailing by just one at 18-17, the undivided attention of the hall was firmly fixed on this compelling game on the very end court of 5.
As is with most champions Chen Long stayed calm and found three consecutive lines with smashes that left Koukal looking at the line judges for inspiration to take the match 21-18 to leave Koukal wondering what might have been.
“I am happy with how I played today but disappointed by the result in the end. I showed a big increase in my level in this match and I think some mistakes cost me in the end” said a disappointed Czech number 1 after the defeat.
In what was probably the match of the first round of the men’s singles, Marc Zwiebler had to call on all his experience to end the challenge of Denmark’s Christian Lind. The Dane squandered three game points in the opening set and Zwiebler was a relieved man taking that game 24-22. The Dane had a 14-11 lead in the second but one again the cool headed German came back to take the match with a 21-19 win in the second to the loud applause of the big opening day crowd.
In one of the final matches of the day England’s Rajiv Ouseph overcame tricky Chinese opponent Chen Yuekun, a player only a handful world ranking spots behind the Englishman. Ouseph continued his good form from the European mixed team championships to take the match in two games to underpin his credentials as a contender for the title.
As the men’s main draw consisted of 64 in Mülheim the qualification for all other four events ran alongside on the opening day.
German Carola Bott was the most active player in qualification competing in both the women’s singles and the women’s doubles. The blonde beauty was the unlikely heroine in the women’s singles draw with a pair of well-crafted victories to set up a meeting with fourth seed Sung Ji Hyun in tomorrow’s main draw. The German made it three wins from three when she teamed up with Stasa Poznanovic in the women’s doubles qualification to the delight of the home German crowd.
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Article and images by Mark Phelan (Live in Mulheim for Badminton Europe)