Li makes another great escape
Li Xuerui of China hits a return against compatriot Wang Shixian during their women's singles final match at the Malaysia Open Badminton Superseries in Kuala Lumpur on January 19, 2014 - by Kamal Sellehuddin
The top-seeded Chinese player came from a game and 8-13 down against Minatsu Mitani, the world number 16 from Japan, drifting to within three points of defeat before winning 14-21, 21-19, 21-15.
Li had saved a match point on Wednesday against Busanan Ongbumrungpan, the world number 17 from Thailand, and once again proved resourceful enough to turn the tide against a good opponent who had the momentum in her favour.
"It's a difficult situation when your opponent has a lead," admitted Li. "Both my coach and myself were telling me to keep fighting.
"I also adopted the right tactics to perform at my level. I was able to adjust and find solutions, so in that way I was happy with my performance."
Li's version was that she attacked with more patience in the second half of the match. She also avoided being forced on to the defensive so much by the lively Mitani, and reduced what had been a high error ratio.
From 8-13 she went on a crucial five-point sequence, reaching parity with a superb block to the net from a Mitani smash, and turning defence immediately into an attacking winner.
Once ahead, Li narrowly stayed in front, but for several minutes the match hung in the balance, and it required Li's two best rallies of the match to take her to the relative safety of one game all.
One, which took her to 20-18, saw her increase the pace but still maintain an excellent tight length with lifts to the back; the other, which clinched the game at 21-19, saw her contain with high clears to the back and pick a perfect moment to pound a cross-court smash on to the floor.
Li had more control in the final set, and by the time she had increased a three-point lead to five at 18-13, Mitani's high standard had begun to dip.
"I hope it will be a good experience to have two tough matches," said Li. "It can help me to become psychologically and mentally tougher."
However Li may need to raise her game still further to regain the title she won here two years ago and which she says retains a special place in her heart as a stepping stone to her Olympic triumph at London 2012.
She next plays Sung Ji-Hyun, the fifth-seeded Korean who reached the final of the Denmark Open five months ago. Sung came back from a three-point deficit in the first game against Lindaweni Fanetri, the world number 18 from Indonesia, to win 23-21, 21-11.