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China’s Shi Yuqi looking to win world title after 10-month suspension

Shi Yuqi of China returns a shot in the men’s singles match against Kantaphon Wangcharoen of Thailand at the Thomas Cup badminton tournament in Aarhus, Denmark, Oct. 15, 2021. (Xinhua/Zhang Cheng)

After serving out his 10-month suspension by the Chinese Badminton Association, Shi Yuqi is looking forward to a powerful return and potentially winning the first men’s singles world title for China since 2015.

by sportswriter Wang Zijiang

TOKYO, Aug. 20 (Xinhua) — Playing his first tournament in 10 months, China’s badminton star Shi Yuqi said that he wants to prove by winning the men’s singles title at the World Championships which kicks off in Tokyo on Monday.

It has been seven years since China won the men’s singles crown last time, through former Rio Olympic champion Chen Long in 2015. Shi reached the final when the event was held in Nanjing, China in 2018, but he was beaten in front of a home crowd by Japan’s Kento Momota.

“I hope to win the world title,” said Shi. “I want to prove myself. But you need to win every match to that end. I will try not to think that far at the moment.”

Shi Yuqi competes during the men’s singles quarterfinal match against Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen at All England Badminton 2020 in Birmingham, Britain on March 13, 2020. (Photo by Tim Ireland/Xinhua)

Shi’s last match was in the Thomas Cup semifinals in October 2021, when he retired at 20-22, 5-20 down to Momota. He was then suspended by the Chinese Badminton Association for making some “inappropriate remarks” about his withdrawal.

“I am very excited to return to the court,” he said. “I have never been out of practice in the past 10 months. I think I am still in good form.”

The 28-year-old, who has slipped to 25th place in the world rankings, had a 30-minute high-intensity workout with teammates Lu Guangzu and Zhao Junpeng at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

“During the days without competitions, I have always been playing some competitive matches against my teammates,” he said. “My preparation included watching videos of my matches and many other things.”

Shi Yuqi competes against Viktor Axelsen of Denmark during their men’s singles quarterfinal match at the Tokyo Olympics in Tokyo, Japan, July 31, 2021. (Xinhua/Cao Can)

Should he get past Ade Resky Dwicahyo, Shi is likely to face Rasmus Gemke and Anthony Ginting before a potential quarterfinal with world number one and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen.

Shi lost to Axelsen in the quarterfinals at last year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.

“Axelsen is a great player and every time I played with him, I was able to learn a lot from him. I need to play my best if we meet again this time.”

China’s Chen Yufei hits a return during the women’s singles final match against South Korea’s An Se-young at Malaysia Masters 2022 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, July 10, 2022. (Photo by Chong Voon Chung/Xinhua)

Chinese women have been waiting much longer for a singles world title and their last victory dated back to the 2011 London worlds when Wang Yihan was crowned.

They have a good chance this time with fourth seed Chen Yufei, who upset Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei in the final of last year’s Tokyo Olympic Games.

But Chen played down her winning prospects, saying that it will be dangerous to take it for granted that the Olympic champion can “naturally” win the world title.

“I know that the fans have high expectations for me after the Tokyo Olympics. But it is wrong to think that I will win the world title comfortably. I will try my best at every detail but I will avoid thinking that way,” the 24-year-old said.

Chen Yufei poses with her gold medal during the awarding ceremony at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo, Japan, Aug. 1, 2021. (Xinhua/Xue Yubin)

Chen will be joined by three teammates in the women’s singles draw. Han Yue, He Bingjiao and Wang Zhiyi have all been drawn in the upper half.

“I don’t think I am fighting alone in the bottom half. If you want to play well, you need to beat every rival.”

She will face Tai again in the semifinals should she progress to that stage.

“There will be a lot of challenges before meeting Tai,” she said. “I have to beat two Thai players first, they are very strong, too.”

She refers to eighth seed Ratchanok Intanon and 10th seed Pornpawee Chochuwong. 

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