BIRMINGHAM: It was the All-England two years ago when Li Xuerui first burst onto the scene.
Then, only 21 and relatively new to the badminton scene, Xuerui announced her presence on the world stage by claiming the crown after beating compatriot Wang Yihan in straight games.
That was also Xuerui’s best ever year to date, as she won a total of eight titles – including the Asian championships and the London Olympics gold medal.
Last year proved to be least successful for Xuerui as, despite winning the Superseries Finals, she was bundled out in the first round of the All-England and lost in the final of the World Championships to Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon.
Xuerui, however, began this year in style – winning the Malaysian Open – and has stated her desire to regain the All-England crown.
“I really want to do well here because this tournament is special to me,” said Xuerui after surviving a close shave with another early elimination before overcoming Thai youngster Busanan Ongbumrungpan 21-14, 15-21, 22-20.
“Two years ago, this was where I won my first major tournament ... and it set me on the path to becoming an Olympic champion and world No. 1.
“So, to come back to the All-England really means a lot to me ... hopefully, I’ll go all the way again.”
Xuerui acknowledged that the near-defeat reminded her of the painful loss to Ratchanok last year.
“Against Busanan, I was reminded a little of my defeat to Ratchanok. The Thai players are really good,” said Xuerui.
“But it doesn’t really bother me too much now because it is a lesson that I try to teach myself.
“Besides, after every tough start, there must be some easier matches that follow and I’m definitely looking forward to it.”
The world No. 1 was certainly spot-on as she dumped Japan’s Minatsu Mitani to check into the quarter-finals, albeit another three games – winning 14-21, 21-19, 21-15.