All England: Christo Popov Sets French Milestone

In its 125th year, the All England finally has a men’s singles semifinalist from France.

And when the moment arrived – a kill into open court against Koki WatanabeChristo Popov threw up his arms in disbelief. It will take time to sink in, but for now, the world No.24 was matter-of-fact when he talked of how significant it was.

“Maybe one week from now I’ll believe it – the All England is so important,” Popov said. “It’s a dream just to play here, and to perform is amazing. I just can’t wait to come back on court tomorrow. I know I had a good draw, and (seventh seed) Prannoy was upset by Su Li Yang. So I took the opportunity and I’m proud of it.

Popov celebrates.

“I was like ‘what’s happening on court?’ I don’t know what it feels like to play the semifinals of the All England, and I want to feel it.”

Going into the quarterfinal, Popov revealed he’d felt calm. It was almost business as usual.

“I think I’m managing well. After winning the first round against Lee Cheuk Yiu, I knew I had an opportunity with this draw. I just took it and I’m very proud of winning those two matches, and I can’t wait to go tomorrow. The atmosphere is amazing and I feel good on court.

“There’s mixed feelings, there’s stress, but we manage it, and try to keep calm and stay focused on tactics.”

Having grown up watching the All England on YouTube, Popov could only describe a “dream” the feeling of playing in the same hall as his idols Peter Gade, Lin Dan, Taufik Hidayat and Lee Chong Wei.

Popov wanted to play All England as a kid.

“I was watching badminton when I was young, we’d watch the All England, with Peter Gade, Taufik …  the golden years. It’s just a dream to be in the same hall. Semifinal in a Super 1000 is a first for me. I want more, of course.”

Significant as the performance is for his career, it also marks a big day for France.

“I don’t know (what it means for France). But it’s good to have these results because when we have youngsters in 10 years’ time, and the semifinals is already done, there’s less pressure. I’m trying to break walls, and that’s the most difficult part. And then you just have to do it again, and I hope France is proud and I hope there will be more achievements now. “

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