ODENSE, Denmark – Spanish badminton star Carolina Marin faced a tougher-than-expected challenge on Friday at the Denmark Open from American Beiwen Zhang, but she tightened up her game over the last game and a half to record a 17-21, 21-17, 21-14 victory.
The reigning Olympic women’s singles gold medalist and three-time world champion, who is playing her first event since the badminton season was put on hold in March due to the pandemic, made more unforced errors than usual in the opening game at Odense Sports Park in Odense, Denmark.
Her skilled opponent also found lots of empty space to land shuttles on Marin’s side of the court.
Marin took an 11-8 lead at the first mid-game interval, but Zhang then surprisingly reeled off 13 of the next 19 points to take the opener.
The sixth-seeded Zhang struck 10 winners to the third-seeded Marin’s three in the first game, while the two players also committed an equal number of unforced errors (10 apiece).
That trend continued at the start of the second game, with Zhang coming back from an early 6-2 deficit to grab an 11-10 lead at the second mid-game interval.
During that meeting with her coach, Marin was clearly upset with herself for her high unforced error count.
Although Zhang stretched her advantage to 14-11 in the second game, the Spaniard then virtually stopped donating points to her opponent and reaped the benefits.
From 11-14 down in the second game, Marin won 30 of the next 44 points to send the match to a decider and give herself a whopping nine match points at 20-11.
Zhang won three of the last four points to make the final score more respectable, but Marin wrapped up her victory in an hour and three minutes when one last Zhang forehand landed wide of the sideline.
“Through to the semifinals. Step by step,” Marin, whose autobiography “Puedo porque pienso que puedo” (I Can because I Think I Can) is scheduled to be released on Oct. 21, wrote afterward on Twitter.
Next up for Marin in Saturday’s semifinals will be unseeded German Yvonne Li, who edged Belgium’s Lianne Tan 15-21, 21-12, 21-17 on Friday.
The Denmark Open is a Super 750 event that is one of the biggest badminton tournaments on the annual calendar.
However, it has been marred this year by the absence of many highly ranked players due to continued concerns about the coronavirus. In women’s singles, neither world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei nor Chinese world No. 2 Chen Yufei made the trip to Odense.
Japanese world No. 3 Akane Yamaguchi was the top seed but, like many of her countrymen, she withdrew before the start of the event.