Toma Junior Popov attributed his surprise VICTOR Denmark Open 2023 first round victory over eighth seed Li Shi Feng to his willingness to take the game to his higher-ranked opponent.
World No.6 Li looked to be on his way to the last 16 after taking the opener 21-12 but Popov stormed back in the second game 21-6. Popov started the decider in a similar vein, racing 14-6 ahead before his All England-winning opponent dragged himself back level. Despite the nerves, the Frenchman saw through a 21-17 win.
Asked what the key was to beating an opponent he’s yet to lose to after two encounters, the world No.26 replied: “Pressure at the frontcourt, try to be as aggressive as I can and move him all around the court. I try to compete as much as I can against the top players.”
On Li’s futile attempt at salvaging the rubber, Popov said: “It was really stressful, because you always think you have a gap in security but players like him hardly make easy mistakes. I stopped his comeback at 14-14, then scored some points so maybe that shook him a little. A bit of luck at 18-17 with the net court but it was good from this moment. Pretty pleased I didn’t let him go over me.”
The 25-year-old revealed the frustration of exiting his last few tournaments early doors forced him to increase the intensity of training following the conclusion of the Hong Kong Open at the start of September.
“I was angry because I had game points in some of those defeats and didn’t take advantage. This is what I was training for every week after Hong Kong. I’m happy my hard work brought me some reward and that I’m going to be back on Thursday,” he said.