Birmingham: Before the All England Open, if Liu Xiaolong and Qiu Zihan walked in a street few would recognise them. In fact, their photos were missing on the official website of All England Open and many from the Chinese media were not sure about the correct character in Qiu's first name, reports Xinhua.
But in the men's doubles final on Sunday afternoon when they beat the fourth seeded Japanese pair Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa overwhelmingly, the world was amazed to see two fledgling shuttlers rising. This result was unexpected even to them. "We had prepared for the worst but the victory came easier than I thought," Qiu said.
Liu, 25, hails from east China's Fujian Province, the hometown of badminton star Lin Dan, while the 22-year-old Qiu is from Shandong. The only title they won in the past was the Thailand Open last year. Coming to Birmingham, they aimed to reach the top eight. But the walkout and defeat of three other Chinese pairs made them realise their responsibility. "We had to fight all out in each match," Qiu said.
He recalled their biggest obstacle on the way to podium, the second round when they fought No.1 seeds Danish Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen in a marathon match that lasted for an hour. After they upset the opponents with a rare 27-25 in the decider, some foreign journalists were asking who these "giant killers" were. "We were greatly encouraged by that success. We knew that we should be confident to win the title," Qiu recalled.
Then they were faced with eighth seeded Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan from Indonesia and concluded the match in three sets. "Each match was a tough battle but we took it easy and earned every point to stand here today," he said. Acknowledging that the All England Open is their biggest glory so far, Liu said, "It is a good start for us."
The All England Open Badminton Championships is the world's oldest and one of the most prestigious badminton tournaments where many famous Chinese players like Lin Dan and Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng rose to stardom. Liu and Qiu's idols were Cai-Fu. They dream to claim more titles like them. Then Birmingham is where their dream starts. Talking about their advantage, Liu said: "We are young and fast."
But they also remain cool-headed. After all they just won a match and it will soon become the past. "The road ahead is long and we need to walk step by step steadily," he beamed.