After capturing the last four World Tour Super 1000 titles, Zheng Si Wei and Huang Ya Qiong’s title defence at the YONEX All England 2020 ground to a stunning halt at the hands of Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek in the second round today.
It was their earliest-ever defeat at a World Tour event in a completed match since pairing up in November 2017.
Not long after, 2018 champions Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino followed them out of the tournament, beaten by home pair Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith 21-15 21-10. The Japanese pair’s defeat meant that the finalists of the last two editions were out of contention.
Tabeling and Piek launched a ferocious assault from the start and never let go. Tabeling’s attack from the back was sharp and sustained, and Piek held her own end up well enough to deny the Chinese many openings. Still, when Zheng and Huang clambered up from 12-19 to 17-19 in the second, there was a ripple in the audience.
Tabeling and Piek didn’t wither in the face of the mini-comeback, and closed it out on the 35th minute, 22-20 21-17.
The Dutch were bubbling with excitement as they came off court.
“Amazing, I’m lost for words,” said Piek. “We played so well the entire game. Beating them is one of my biggest dreams.
“Every inch of your game needs to be perfect. I think it was our day today. A lot of things went very well for us, we got some good line calls, there were some hits on the frame, which went in… it was our day, you need those points to get on top against them.
“Almost everything worked. We had an understanding of what was coming, and we worked very well, we had speed in our legs, and we were on top of them. We could see they were getting a bit shaky, and then we got a lead and we got shaky as well, but then somehow we managed to go through.”
Ellis and Smith were in total command over 2018 champions Watanabe and Higashino. Smith had an outstanding game, and with Ellis moving quickly and pouncing on his opportunities, the England duo were unstoppable.
“Amazing, we haven’t played those guys before and we weren’t sure of what to expect,” said Smith. “We knew after yesterday that we were on form this week and we felt very comfortable in the hall, and we had to trust ourselves and tried to deliver what we knew we could deliver. And it paid off well today. We returned some of their best shots and they almost didn’t know what to do.”
“It’s a privilege to get to this far in this tournament,” added Ellis. “We’ve taken out the fourth seeds, so it’s potentially a hole in the draw. Who knows what can happen? The best we can hope for coming to a championships like this is to cause an upset, and then suddenly people aren’t sure of what’s going to happen. Just before we went on court, the top seeds lost. This is the exact situation we hope to be in.”