China Open: Gao Seeks to Forget the Past

The China Open  in Changzhou is not exactly unfamiliar turf for Gao Fang Jie, but it’s been a long time since she was last here. That was back during her best years in 2017 and 2018, before an Achilles injury pretty much derailed her career.

The former world No.13 – runner-up at the TAHOE China Open in Fuzhou and semifinalist at what was then the China Masters in Changzhou – disappeared from the scene following an Achilles injury in January 2019. Playing Carolina Marin at the Malaysia Masters, Gao had to be wheeled off court after her left calf gave way.

“I’m very happy to play here again,” said the 24-year-old, after beating Natsuki Nidaira in straight games in the opening round. “This is my first high level match after I injured my leg, so I just tried to keep going. The Japanese player is my age, we played each other at the junior level. Now she’s higher ranked than me, so today I just wanted to see how I could cope with her.”

Gao Fang Jie being wheeled off court at the Malaysia Masters 2019

Gao’s ranking had fallen precipitously before she started her comeback last year at lower-tier events. She won three of her four events – the Indonesia International Challenge, Indonesia Masters (Super 100) and the Malaysia International Series.

“I’m very careful about my condition and I just try to enjoy badminton. I don’t want to hurt the ankle again, so I’m careful during training, because the injury affected me for a long time,” said Gao, who once evoked comparisons with her good friend and senior teammate Li Xue Rui for the similarity of looks and playing styles.

This year she was fielded at the Badminton Asia Mixed Team Championships in Dubai, where she won all her matches – including over Goh Jin Wei, Pusarla V Sindhu and Kim Ga Eun.

The climb since then has been steady, and impressive. At the US Open she’d make the final, with wins over Rachel Chan, Pusarla V Sindhu and Ratchanok Intanon.

“My form goes up and down, depending on my training. I don’t want to give up; I want to keep going. I want to come back to where I was.”

Although she is reminded of her past performances, Gao prefers to start on a fresh slate.

“Past is past and future is future. We don’t know what will happen in the future. I want to enjoy my badminton, but I also want to be careful. This year I feel very happy, very excited.”

Was she inspired by the example of other players – such as Carolina Marin and Beiwen Zhang – who’d returned to top-level competition after serious injuries?

“I don’t want to think too much, I just want to go step by step. The most important thing is that I have to improve my world ranking. I hope to be competing in all the major tournaments.”

Day 1 Highlights

Ng Tze Yong got the better of World Championships bronze medallist HS Prannoy in an hour-long match 21-12 13-21 21-18.

Praveen Jordan/Melati Daeva Oktavianti scored a morale-boosting 21-16 12-21 21-16 win over World Championships bronze medallists Jiang Zhen Bang/Wei Ya Xin.

France’s Margot Lambert/Anne Tran had seventh seeds Nami Matsuyama/Chiharu Shida in a spot of bother before the Japanese pulled ahead 21-15 22-24 21-18.

Newly-crowned world champions Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung had to stave off a spirited fight from Mathias Christiansen/Alexandra Boje in the second game, finishing victors at 21-14 24-22.

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