Top badminton seeds survive scares at S'pore Open

World No. 1 Chen Long struggles with conditions but Lin Dan has an easier time

ON THE EDGE: China’s Chen Long (above) has to recover from an error-prone start to edge out India’s HS Prannoy in his opening match yesterday.

"Chen Long, don't play play ah, I will get a heart attack you know."

That plea in Mandarin made in half-jest by a fan yesterday gave an indication of how Chen Long's opening men's singles match in the OUE Singapore Open went yesterday.

In the end, the Chinese world No. 1 held his nerve to beat India's HS Prannoy 18-21, 21-18, 21-19 in 71 minutes at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

"I think next time I should just keep it simple and not speak too much before tournaments, otherwise I won't play well," said a visibly-relieved Chen Long, after the match.

"It was an early match for me today and I was not too familiar with the draught here, so I made quite a number of mistakes."

"I kept telling myself to be stable... this stadium is world-famous for its (windy) conditions; many top players have not won titles here before, so winning a match today is good for me," he added.

Spanish world No. 1 Carolina Marin also suffered a scare in her opening singles, although it was in totally different circumstances.

She beat Indonesia's Lindaweni Fanetri 21-12, 21-9 but it was not as straightforward as the scoreline suggested.

Marin, 22, was leading 17-11 in the first set when she rolled her left ankle.

Play was stopped for about five minutes before the 2014 and 2015 world champion returned to the court and eventually wrapped up the win with little fuss.

"Now it (my ankle) is a little painful, and I've got a chronic injury in my ankle and I have to be careful about that," said the Spaniard, who has been dealing with the flu since the Malaysia Open last week.

MISTAKES

"I think the stadium here is much better than in Malaysia last week; you know you have to play with the draught, you have to control the shuttle even more and make sure you make fewer mistakes."

Two-time Olympic men's singles champion Lin Dan drew a crowd of about 500 when he beat Indonesia's Ihsan Maulana Mustofa 21-16, 21-19 in the morning.

The 32-year-old had earlier claimed he would be more motivated to perform if he was backed by strong support and after his routine win, he said: "It's been four years since I've been here and it's my first match in this tournament, so it's been okay so far.

"It's only Wednesday and there were so many fans, so I'm quite happy about that."

While Chen Long was unhappy with the draught in the Indoor Stadium, Lin Dan did not have any complaints.

The five-time world champion said: "The draught was not bad today; perhaps the tournament hasn't been that exciting for a few years now and the organisers have thus considered how to give the players the best playing conditions."

Men's singles world No. 5 Jan O Jorgensen was the most high-profile player to exit the tournament yesterday.

The Danish shuttler, who lost to eventual winner Lee Chong Wei in the Malaysia Open semi-finals last week, crashed out after a 21-16, 22-20 loss to Japan's Sho Sasaki.

Liang pays price for failure to stay calm

She lost because she so desperately wanted to win that it disrupted her play.

Singapore's Olympic hopeful Liang Xiaoyu exited the OUE Singapore Open women's singles competition yesterday after a 21-18, 21-4 first-round loss to defending champion Sun Yu of China at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Liang (above), 20, was trailing 13-18 in the first set but fought back to draw level at 18-18, before capitulating to the world No. 12.

"At 18-18, I wanted to win too much and got panicky, and I tend to drop points when I get that way," said world No. 42 Liang.

It got worse in the second set after the two players swopped sides on Court 3, where the draught is known to be strong.

Said Liang: "I could not master the wind and a lot of my shots to the side went wide, which made me even more panicky.

"It was difficult to score against my opponent; I could rally with her, but I did not have a killer shot.

"I'm quite disappointed today because I didn't play that well. I was okay in the first set, but the more I played in the second the more clueless I became.

"This was unexpected."

Liang's exit followed that of teammate Derek Wong (men's singles), and the mixed doubles pair of Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo on Tuesday. All four shuttlers are aiming to qualify for the Rio Olympics in August and there are only weeks remaining to gain points till the May 5 deadline.

Chrisnanta is still in the tournament, after he and men's doubles partner Hendra Wijaya beat Malaysia's Tai An Khang and Hong Kheng Yew 21-18, 21-19 in the first round.

They will face Japan's Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda today.

Chrisnanta, 27, said: "It was a close match and a good win... I was very motivated today with all the support (from the crowd)."

The duo, who teamed up briefly four years ago, resumed their partnership early this year.

Chrisnanta said: "We are still finding (our chemistry), the last time we partnered together we did well and we will try to get back to that level as soon as possible."

In the women's doubles, Elaine Chua and Citra Dewi Sari fell 21-10, 21-14 to Japanese top seeds Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, while Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong lost 21-16, 21-19 to Taiwan's Chang Hsin-tien and Hu Ling-fang.

Women's singles shuttler Grace Chua lost her first-round tie to Japan's Sayaka Sato 21-11, 21-11.

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4 Singaporeans nabbed in New Zealand drug bust

Four Singaporeans were among 41 people detained in New Zealand on drug charges during a police operation to bust a drug ring, police said yesterday.

The four were charged with importing 700g of methamphetamine that was to be dealt in the city of Gisborne and its surrounding region, said the New Zealand police in a statement.

All the accused appeared in court over the last nine days and are facing a total of 245 charges of importing a Class-A drug, conspiracy to sell, selling and possession of methamphetamine for supply and cannabis dealing.

In the operation last week, which came after an eight-month investigation, the police searched 37 properties and seized eight of them, as well as bank accounts, vehicles, 400g of methamphetamine, firearms and cannabis.

Detective Sergeant Kevin Ford was quoted by the police as saying that children had been living in some of the properties searched.

"These children were of various ages and had been living in houses where the drug was being used and dealt," the police quoted Sgt Ford as saying.

"This is an appalling situation."

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