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Badminton: Brave Nguyen reaches last four to make history for Vietnam

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August 9, 2013: Nguyen Tien Minh made history on Friday when the World No. 7 became the first Vietnamese to reach the semi-finals of the BWF World Championships, after outlasting Jan O Jorgensen in one of the most emotionally charged matches of the tournament.

 

Nguyen, who will play defending champion Lin Dan on Saturday, was almost punch drunk after his exhausting contest against the Danish No.1, in which he gave up four match points before finally winning 21-8, 17-21, 22-20.

 

“Today I’m very happy because I never believed I could do this. My country is not like China, Korea, Thailand, Denmark … countries that are very strong in badminton. I’m the first person from Vietnam to reach this far,” said Nguyen, who lost 2-1 to Denmark’s Peter Gade in the quarter-finals in London two years ago.

 

“Even in the Super Series, the furthest I’ve gone is the semi-finals, not a final, and now I’m in the semi-finals of the World Championships. I don’t believe this. I never thought I could get this far. Even if I lose [the semi-final], I can get a bronze medal. This would be the first big result for Vietnam.”

 

Yet it all started so easily for Nguyen. Looking faster and sharper than his younger opponent, the 30-year-old quickly won the opener against a visibly frustrated Jorgensen, but the Dane battled back and won the last six points of the second game to draw level.

 

IMG_8313LOWNguyen stayed narrowly ahead for most of a bruising third game, which featured a series of long rallies, as Jorgensen tried to tire his older opponent and the Vietnamese waited patiently for the Dane to make a mistake.

 

During one particularly long rally, Nguyen even had to rest on his racquet to stay upright and after the end of several points he was doubled over, trying to catch his breath. As the crowd grew increasingly aware of how quickly Nguyen was tiring, the desperation for him to finish the game grew.

 

Despite running low on energy and desperately trying to extend the time between points, Nguyen managed to create four match points at 20-16 after Jorgensen hit long three times in a row.

 

With Nguyen on the cusp of victory, one point lasted so long that the crowd spontaneously burst into applause for the players’ effort, yet the cheering and clapping finished long before the rally did, with Jorgensen again the winner.

 

Motivated by his opponent’s waning legs, the Dane saved the four match points, the scoreboard moving to 20-20.

 

IMG_8343aMEDDrawing on all his resources, Nguyen eventually won the last two points to record an emotional victory, dropping to the floor in exhaustion before going under the net to embrace his opponent and then celebrate with ecstatic Vietnamese team officials.

 

“Maybe I’m a little bit lucky today, because I was so tired by the end. Because of the wind, one side of the court played good, one side not so good, so if you hit it a little bit, it’s easy to go out. You must control it a lot, which makes the body tired. That’s why he was more fit because I was attack, attack, attack,” he said.

 

“Two years ago in London, I also won the first game in the quarter-final and then it was 19-19 in the second and I lost the match. This year, it was again a Danish player in the quarter-finals. Next year I’m 31 so maybe this time is the last chance for me.”

 

Nguyen played down his chances of causing an upset against Lin in the semis and said all the pressure would be on the four-time champion, who has looked in impressive form despite almost a year off from tournament play.

 

“Today, I’m dead already so I’d be happy if I can get 15 points. Lin so strong. His physique and body is still very fit. He can still hit it anywhere, do anything, whereas I only follow it around. Still, I think I will play better than today because I will be very relaxed as I’m in the semi-finals already.”

 

IMG_8282aLOWJorgensen cut a bitter figure after failing to complete his comeback at the end of the third game, but felt he had already blown his chances of victory in the opener.

 

“I lost because of the first set. I couldn’t play in the first set because of the draft, the tailwind. You can’t win a match when you can only play on one side. I’ve lost every single game I’ve played on that side of the court,”

 

“I came back, but it wasn’t enough because I’ve played two hours more than him during this tournament.”

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