Japan's Okuhara puts pain of the past behind her
The badminton upsets keep rolling in as rising Japanese star Akane Yamaguchi and third seed India's Saina Nehwal were on Friday bundled out of the Yonex-Sunrise Hong Kong Open in straight games.
Yamaguchi's compatriot Nozomi Okuhara - the former world junior champion who was almost a forgotten name after two serious injuries - surprised all to sweep aside her rival 21-15, 21-11 at the Coliseum.
In the semi-finals, 19-year-old Okuhara will face reigning world champion Carolina Marin of Spain, who accounted for Malaysian Tee Jing Yi, while China's Liu Xin will meet Taiwan's Tai Tzu-ying. Liu beat Minatsu Mitani of Japan 21-19, 21-15.
Liu is China's last hope after the early exit of their top seeds, Wang Shixian and Wang Yihan.
"I am so happy. This is my first Superseries of the year and the first time I've made it to the semi-finals of a tournament," said Okuhara, who only came back in April after hurting both knees in the New Zealand Open.
"I thought my career was over after the second serious injury, but thanks to the support of people around me, I can play again although there is still pain."
After clinching the world junior title in 2012, Okuhara was considered a star of the new generation, but a meniscus injury early last year stopped her from playing for almost a year.
On her return in April, she only played grand prix level competitions. She won the Korea Grand Prix in Jeonju.
She had no easy draw in the US$350,000 Hong Kong tournament, but Okuhara picked off her rivals one by one, overcoming promising Sun Yu of China in the first round before another impressive upset over seventh seed Pursala Venkata Sindhu of India. Earlier yesterday, third seed Nehwal, who won the China Open on Sunday, suffered defeat at the hands of sixth seed Tai.
"I was a bit tired after the China Open and although I gave my best today, I could not offer more," said the only non-Chinese player to clinch a Superseries title this year.
In the men's singles quarter-finals, Hongkonger Wei Nan could not match the talent of India's Kidambi Srikanth, who won 21-14, 21-15. Srikanth set up a semi-final against China's Chen Long, who had an easy 21-16, 21-11 victory over Takuma Ueda of Japan in the quarter-finals.
Second seed Jan O Jorgensen of Denmark also advanced to the semis, beating fifth seed China's Wang Zhengming.