Wang on verge of medal glory
Rob Woollard in Anaheim
'She is playing with so much confidence she has not had to worry about anything'
Hong Kong are one victory away from a first-ever medal at the world championships after in-form fourth seed Wang Chen destroyed Japan's Eriko Hirose to book her quarter-final berth yesterday.
Wang overwhelmed ninth seed Hirose 11-1, 11-0 and will now be guaranteed a bronze medal if she can beat Taiwan's unseeded Cheng Shao-chieh in the last eight at Arrowhead Pond today (Hong Kong time).
No Hong Kong player has won a medal at a world championships before but the scintillating form of mainland-born Wang, who has dropped just two points in her two matches of the tournament so far, suggests that history is about to be rewritten.
Wang's performance left Hong Kong coach Chan Chi-choi glowing with satisfaction on a day when all of the remaining SAR shuttlers bowed out.
'I'm happy for her,' Chan said. 'Sometimes she gets nervous in big tournaments so I have told her before each game to prepare for the worst.
'But at the moment she is playing with so much confidence she has not had to worry about anything. She has a very good chance to make the semi-finals.'
Wang's victory came after Hong Kong teenager Yip Pui-yin bowed out of the women's singles but not before giving top seed and reigning Olympic champion Zhang Ning of China the fright of her life.
Yip, the world number 76 who had upset Japanese 11th seed Kanako Yonekura in the second round, left Zhang shell-shocked after running away with the first game before finally succumbing 4-11, 11-3, 11-4.
Afterwards Yip said she had struggled to adapt to the conditions on court number two, one of the worst affected by the strong drafts that have been criticised by players and coaches since the tournament began.
'It was much harder than the previous court I played on,' Yip said.
'The wind blows on all sides and it's hard to tell what the shuttle will do.'
Yip could only take positives from her defeat however. 'It's exciting for me to win a set against a player like Zhang Ning,' the 18-year-old said. 'It will make me believe I can beat the top players in future.'
Chan echoed the youngster's comments, adding he would work out a timetable for her development when the team returned to Hong Kong.
'We need to sit down and discuss which tournament she plays in, because she can't play juniors any more,' Chan said.
'But she has a lot of potential. It was almost like a typhoon on the court today but she coped well and had the confidence to keep attacking Zhang.'
Yip outfoxed Zhang in the first game by forcing the pace and engaging her opponent in short, sharp rallies. Once Zhang slowed the pace down in the second and third games there was only going to be one winner.
Zhang, a heavy favourite to add the world championship to the Olympic crown she won in Athens last year, admitted she had been surprised by the raw power and technical quality of the 18-year-old Yip. 'She's fast around the court and has a very strong smash. She hits it as hard as a boy,' said Zhang, who will play Japanese 12th seed Kaori Mori in the quarter-finals. 'She has a very complete game.'
In the men's singles, ninth seed Ng Wei put up a spirited fight against China's All-England champion and seventh seed Chen Hong before losing 15-7, 14-17, 15-3.
Elsewhere, China's world number one and tournament favourite Lin Dan squeezed past Japan's Shoji Sato 15-8, 9-15, 15-5, while another Chinese, Bao Chunlai, seeded four, made light work of Malaysia's Wong Choong Hann, winning 15-6, 15-12.
In the men's doubles, Hong Kong pair Liu Kwok-wa and Albertus Susanto Njoto exited in the third round, routed 15-3, 15-0 by Danish fifth seeds Lars Paaske and Jonas Rasmussen.