SHUTTLER Li Shifeng has emerged as China’s biggest threat in the men’s singles in the Asian Games.
Reigning All-England champion Shifeng played a crucial role in his country’s gold medal win in the men’s team event.
Defending champions China were down 0-2 against India in the final when the world No. 8 led the fightback by beating 2021 World Championships silver medallist K. Srikanth 24-22, 21-9 that eventually saw his country win 3-2 at the Binjiang Gymnasium in Hangzhou on Sunday.
In the first singles, world No. 6 Shi Yuqi suffered his third consecutive defeat in the tournament when he went down 20-22, 21-14, 18-21 to 2022 Birmingham Commonwealth Games champion Lakshya Sen.
Yuqi had also lost to Taiwan’s Chou Tien-chen and Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto in the quarter-finals and last four respectively.
India then doubled their lead through world No. 3 doubles pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty, who stunned world No. 2 Liang Weikeng-Wang Chang 21-15, 21-18.
All the pressure was on Shifeng to save the tie for the hosts and he stood tall to beat his opponent to turn the tide for China.
Liu Yuchen-Ou Xuanyi carried on the momentum to beat scratch pair Dhruv Kapila-K. Sai Pratheek 21-6, 21-15 in the second doubles and Weng Hongyang blew away Mithun Manjunath 21-12, 21-4 to give China the winning point.
Most of the credit though should go to Shifeng.
The 23-year-old maintained his 100% record in the competition after also beating Taiwan’s Wang Tzu-wei and Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama in the last eight and semi-finals respectively.
He has rebounded well after suffering early-round exits in his last three individual tournaments – the Japan Open, World Championships and China Open.
He will now turn his attention to the individual event where he will open his campaign against Pakistan’s Murad Ali in the second round today after receiving a bye in the first round.
Yuqi, who also received a first-round bye, will need to raise his game as he has a tricky second- round match against Hong Kong’s world No. 17 Lee Cheuk Yiu.
Meanwhile, India can still be proud of their efforts after winning their first ever silver in the men’s team at the Asiad – and their players, especially H.S Prannoy and Satwiksairaj-Chiraq are in the running for more medals.
Men’s team: China bt India 3-2 (Shi Yuqi lost to Lakshya Sen 20-22, 21-14, 18-21; Liang Weikeng-Wang Chang lost to Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty 15-21, 18-21; Li Shifeng bt K. Srikanth 24-22, 21-9; Liu Yuchen-Ou Xuanyi bt Dhruv Kapila-K. Sai Pratheek 21-6, 21-15; Weng Hongyang bt Mithun Manjunath 21-12, 21-4).