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Syed Modi International 2018: With eye on Tokyo Olympics, China’s Li Xuerui hopes India could prove lucky once again

Lucknow: Former World No 1 Li Xuerui is back in India after eight long years in a bid to make a return to the top of world badminton once again. The 2012 London Olympics gold medallist is on a comeback trail following a knee injury that kept her out for almost two years since the 2016 Rio Olympics.

 Syed Modi International 2018: With eye on Tokyo Olympics, China’s Li Xuerui hopes India could prove lucky once again

File image of China's Li Xuerui. AFP

After spending nearly 600 days on the sidelines, the former World No 1 returned to the international circuit, winning the BWF Tour 100 event Lingshui China Masters in April this year.

Since then, Li has shown glimpses of her dominating game, which drafted her into the Uber Cup team. She went on to win the US Open and Canada Open titles to break into the top-50 in the BWF world rankings thereafter.

On Thursday, the 27-year-old worked her way out to beat India’s Shreyanshi Pardeshi 21-19, 21-16 in the second round of the Syed Modi International badminton tournament in Lucknow.

“India has been lucky for me as I won my first big title here,” said Xuerui, who won the 2010 Asian Games title. “I am enjoying playing here and hope to go back with another title.”

The on-court movements indicated the need for match practice and her strokes lacked the cutting edge. Yet, she doesn’t want to think about the chinks in her armour but instead give what she has to offer.

“I was away from the game, but I never lost my focus,” said Xuerui, stressing on the fact that her two-year break didn’t affect her emotionally. “I kept myself updated about what was happening in the badminton world, and was trying hard to recover from my injuries.”

During her road to recovery, Xuerui revealed that she was quite active on social media, where she read about the developments in world badminton. She also interacted with the fans on social media who motivated her to break free from the nervousness she faced while rehab.

“It was a nervous start after my injuries at the China Masters, as I felt everything quite unfamiliar to me,” she said. “But now everything seems fine and I am feeling fit and fine. I hope to find my rhythm back before the 2020 Olympics.”

Notably, Xuerui was a part of the famous ‘Big Three’ along with Wang Yihan and Wang Shixian that ruled the roost for years. Moreover, Xuerui and Yihan were the last Chinese women’s singles players to dominate the international circuit. The two-year long for a major title was only ended last month when Chen Yufei won the China Masters.

Dreaming about Tokyo would be far-fetched, as her chances look slim. Chen and He Bingjiao have taken the women’s singles circuit by storm, and with the likes of Gao Fangjie and Cai Yanyan proving their worth, the holder of 23 Superseries titles has a mountain to climb.

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Updated Date: Nov 22, 2018 20:54:02 IST