BIRMINGHAM: One Olympic badminton singles champion was knocked out in the All England Open second round and the other almost joined him on Thursday.
Chen Long, ranked third, ought to have wiped the floor of Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, whom he'd beaten in their previous 11 matches. But Tanongsak bossed their match, forcing error-prone Chen to play catch up in both games. With two-time All England champion Chen breathing down his neck, Tanongsak held his nerve to win the last two points for 21-16, 21-19.
In the past year, Chen's only win has been the big one, the Rio de Janeiro Olympics. The Chinese star was coming off a loss in the German Open semifinals last weekend.
Tanongsak withdrew from the Thailand squad five years ago to train independently. He failed to qualify for Rio but pulled off the biggest win in his 12-year international career when he won the Denmark Open in October. Since then he's returned to being inconsistent.
"I'm more confident after winning the Denmark Open," he said after beating Chen.
Carolina Marin broke China's 16-year hold on the women's Olympic singles, but China's latest wonder, 19-year-old leftie He Bingjiao, was two points from eliminating the Spaniard at 21-15, 19-17.
Marin rallied by taking the last four points of the second game, and broke He's spirit. Marin prevailed 15-21, 21-19, 21-10.
"I didn't start well but am happy to have finished well," said Marin, the 2015 All England champion.
Top-ranked Lee Chong Wei edged Tzu Wei Wang of Taiwan, who beat Chen to reach the German Open final, 21-18, 21-18.
Chong Wei lined up No. 6-ranked Tian Houwei of China in the quarterfinals. They are 1-1 on head to head, but haven't met in 16 months.
In the other half of the draw, defending champion Lin Dan and Viktor Axelsen will meet for the first time since the Dane beat Lin in the Olympic bronze-medal match. The great Lin, winner of the previous two Olympics, went home empty-handed from Rio. He has lost his last two matches with Axelsen.
That winner's path to the final was smoothed when No. 2-ranked Jan O Jorgensen was beaten by Japanese qualifier Kazumasa Sakai for the second time, 21-16, 21-13. Sakai will play Shi Yuqi of China in the quarters.
Marin joined the seven other women's seeds in the quarterfinals. She will face another former world champion, Ratchanok Intanon.
Ratchanok has overcome knee and heel injuries to play and hasn't dropped a game. But the 2014 finalist from Thailand will be hard-pressed not to fall to Marin in the quarterfinals for a second straight year.
Top-ranked Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan will play Olympic runner-up Pusarla Sindhu of India, Sung Ji Hyun of South Korea takes on Saina Nehwal of India, and rising star Akane Yamaguchi of Japan meets China's last remaining woman, Sun Yu.