A day after he had featured in a singles ultramarathon of nearly two hours, Christo Popov was back for the France-Denmark tie in Thomas Cup Group B, with his courageous show from yesterday earning a nod from Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen.
The 20-year-old Frenchman, after cramping in the late stages of his singles yesterday against Lu Guang Zu, had returned for his doubles with Toma Junior and taken a game off Chinese pair Liu Yu Chen/Ou Xuan Yi. Today too he played two matches, and while he didn’t look his sprightly self in a tame defeat to Antonsen, he chalked it down to his inability to adapt to the conditions rather than the aftereffects of yesterday’s matches.
‘Very Strong for His Age’
“That’s tough, I’m happy that it wasn’t me who had to play two matches,” said Antonsen, having beaten Popov 21-12 21-13 to put Denmark 2-0 ahead. “It was two very tough matches for him, but the conditions in here are very slow, so that makes it possible to play these very long matches.
“Of course he’s very strong for his age. I know all about cramps (laughs) and I’ve been dealing with it myself, it’s not fun. I don’t know if he’s going to continue playing two categories, it’s tough on the body.”
Axelsen, who had won his opening match today against Toma Junior, referred to the “active playing time” considering the stoppages for mopping the court, but was still impressed by the two combatants.
“In hot conditions it’s tough physically and sometimes you just end up in these matches when it’s tough physically and yesterday was a great fight from both players,” the world No.1 said.
The 118-minute match was one of the longest recorded singles matches at this level, and Popov felt the work he’d put in was paying off.
“Of course I felt some pain in the muscles, but once I warmed up, I recovered and the physio was with me, so we did everything we could to play today and we did well.
“It means I’m training well physically, and I’m still young. Of course I don’t hope to do this kind of thing every week. But yeah, we prepare for that and I’m happy to be physically OK.”
He attributed his defeat today to his inability to adjust to the change in the direction of the drift.
“I didn’t feel that well in the atmosphere at all, but I was feeling good physically. So that’s why I’m a bit frustrated at not bringing my ‘A’ game. The way I felt on court was OK, which means I had difficulty in adapting to the hall as I think it wasn’t the same conditions as court 1 yesterday. He (Antonsen) adapted better than me, and I think today was just about adaptation and he’s more experienced than me.”
♦ Denmark were expected to have some trouble against France in Group B, but the Danes never let their opponents have a look-in. Only the pair of Christo Popov/Toma Junior Popov had their chances of taking a game, but Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen wrapped up their match in straight games to complete the whitewash for Denmark.
♦ In the same group, China were just as efficient in dismissing Algeria 5-0, fielding Zhao Jun Peng, Li Shi Feng and Weng Hong Yang in singles and Ren Xiang Yu/Tan Qiang and Liu Yu Chen/Ou Xuan Yi in doubles.