Hong Kong Open: Ng, Popov Play Spoilers

Youngsters Ng Tze Yong and Christo Popov sent two seeded shuttlers packing from the VICTOR Hong Kong Open 2023 today.

Up-and-coming Malaysian Ng claimed the scalp of seventh seed Chou Tien Chen with a 21-15 21-19 victory. It was his second win in three months – both in straight games – over the world No.12 Chinese Taipei shuttler.

“It’s good for my confidence, it assures me I’m on the right track as far as training is concerned,” said the 23-year-old world No.20, who also defeated Chou at the Thailand Open in June. “But I need to continue, I can still improve a lot. I just want to be consistent every single match.”

Ng, who fell to Shesar Hiren Rhustavito in the China Open second round, added: “It’s a great comeback from last week. I played well, the draft is quite big but I could control it. I hope I can do the same in the next match.”

Popov had earlier fashioned a comeback he thought was impossible against sixth seed Loh Kean Yew after an awkward slip at 19-9 down in the first game. The Frenchman lost 21-11 but took the remaining games convincingly (21-17 21-13), with his injury proving a blessing in disguise.

“Although it wasn’t on purpose, my medical timeout disrupted his rhythm and broke his pace,” admitted the 21-year-old.

“He started well and to be honest, after losing 21-11, I told my coach ‘no way I’m going to win, he’s really good today’. It’s not that I wasn’t in good shape, he just outplayed me, especially at the net. Also, after my slip, I became a bit more cautious due to the pain.”

Loh checking on Popov after he fell.

On his injury, the world No.29 said: “Wasn’t a twist but I believe tonight the inflammation will get worse. Hopefully it’s nothing serious.”

Having edged 2-1 ahead in their head-to-head, Popov is already looking forward to the next match against Loh.

“I can’t wait for another battle with him. It’s always nice, he has this freestyle of playing, jumping everywhere and having crazy shots. It’s a lot of fun.”

In the second round tomorrow, Ng takes on Kanta Tsuneyama while Popov will face another Japanese Kenta Nishimoto for the very first time.

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