Wang Lin has had a roller-coaster ride in recent years, winning the world championships in 2010 before injuries saw her drop out of the top 60 in the global rankings. But Wang, 23, has picked herself up and believes that starting from scratch has made her mentally tougher.
"It was very difficult watching from the sidelines as my teammates racked up one victory after another," said Wang, who yesterday beat Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal of India 21-19, 21-15 to reach the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Open at the Colisuem in Hung Hom. "But I was determined to restart my career ... the thought of retiring never entered my head."
The 2007 junior world champion was ranked No 1 in August 2009 and lived up to that billing a year later when she was crowned world champion in Paris. A month after that, though, Wang injured a ligament in her left knee and had to undergo an operation in Germany. She returned to competition in mid 2011 but another injury that year ruined her hopes of representing China at the London Olympic Games.
"There's still a long way to go before I am back to my best," she said yesterday. "But I believe I will get there. Beating Sania today is a good start. I've lost to her twice before, so I think I'm mentally stronger than I have been for a while."
Wang's best result at the Hong Kong Open was reaching the semi-finals in 2009 and she can match that achievement if she beats Adrianti Firdasari of Indonesia in today's quarter-finals. "I'm not thinking too far ahead," Wang insisted. "I have to take it one match at a time."
Meanwhile, Olympic champion Li Xuerui of China marched into the quarter-finals with a dominant 21-14, 21-13 victory against Belaetrix Manuputi of Indonesia. Li, 21, meets sixth seed Tine Baun of Denmark today. "There have been more expectations placed on me since I won the Olympic gold medal," said Li, who won the China Open in Shanghai last week. "But I believe I am handling the pressure well."
Top seed Wang Yihan also reached the last eight after her opponent yesterday, Minatsu Mintani of Japan, retired with an injury while trailing 21-19, 12-10.
It was a mixed day for the Chinese women, however, as fourth seed Wang Shixian crashed to a 17-21, 21-12, 21-23 defeat by Porntip Buranaprasertsuk of Thailand. Chen Xiaojia, 21, ruptured her left Achilles tendon against fifth seed Juliane Schenk of Germany and will have to undergo an operation today.
In the men's singles, Lee Chong Wei, the top seed from Malaysia, beat Ajay Jayaram of India 21-18, 21-19, while second seed Chen Long of China brushed aside Malaysian Daren Liew, last month's French Open champion, 21-8, 21-13.
Hong Kong's last hope in the tournament, Hu Yun, was beaten by Malaysian Mohamad Arif Abdul Latif 21-17, 21-17.