All England Open: Pi becomes first French finalist

<img border='0' align='left' title=' ' src='' class='caption'> Shanghai-born Pi Hongyan staved off match point and stunned Olympic women’s singles champion Zhang Ning 21-18, 21-23, 24-22 on Saturday.

Updated: March 22, 2007 06:37 IST
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Shanghai-born Pi Hongyan staved off match point and stunned Olympic women’s singles champion Zhang Ning 21-18, 21-23, 24-22 on Saturday to become the first French finalist at the All England Open badminton championships. Pi needed 75 minutes to prevail after a match point in the second game was called out despite television replays appeared otherwise. "When I play Chinese players they are keen to beat me," Pi said. "They are determined on court but were still friends off it." She next meets two-time champion and and top-ranked Xie Xingfang, who has yet to lose a game on the way to the final. She beat teammate and fifth seed Zhu Lin 21-14, 21-19 on Sautrday, leaving China with a chance to sweep all five titles. "It was quite tough, especially as she got to 19-19 in the second game," Xie said. "At that point I was worried that we might have to go to a third game." Xies boyfriend, Lin Dan, is favoured to win his third men's title in his fourth consecutive final. He beat teammate and fifth seed Bao Chunlai 21-14, 21-16 in a repeat of their world final in Madrid in September. "That might have looked an easy match but Bao is a much tougher opponent than you think," Lin said. China in position to sweep title China are guaranteed the men's title again, with Lin facing sixth seed Chen Yu, who beat second-seeded teammate Chen Jin 21-18 9-21 21-13. Chen has lost all four meetings against Lin, including their most recent meeting last week at the German Open, where Lin won the title. Top seeds Gao Ling and Huang Sui will not a seventh womens doubles title, beaten by third seeds Wei Yili and Zhang Yawen 21-9, 19-21, 21-14. Wei and Zhang will meet teammates Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen, who beat Chin Eei Hui and Wong Pei Tty of Malaysia 21-17 21-7 Gao and new male partner Zheng Bo are still in contention for the mixed doubles title. The two beat He Hanbin and Yu Yang 21-14, 21-14 and next face English pair Anthony Clark and Donna Kellogg, who advanced with a 21-19, 21-17 victory over Xie Zhongbo and Zhang Yawen. World mens doubles champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng are one win away from recapturing the title they won in 2005 after battling past fifth seeds Tony Gunawan of the United States and Candra Wijaya of Indonesia 18-21 21-19 21-18.

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