Vietnam's badminton ace Nguyen Tien Minh advanced to the men's singles semifinals of the 2011 Vietnam Open Grand Prix after beating Malaysian player Daren Liew in Ho Chi Minh City Friday.
The match was set to begin at 7:30 p.m. but the 2,000-seat stadium at Phan Dinh Phung Sports Center was almost full an hour earlier.
The match attracted so many fans because the 7th-ranked, top seed is the hosts' only hope left in the week-long tournament.
The 57th-ranked Malaysian rival was expected to be a challenge for Minh although he had been the winner both times they had previously met at the Vietnam Open in 2004 and 2009.
Minh didn't have a good start and Liew also made several mistakes at the beginning. With strong support from home fans, Minh took the first set 21-16.
The second set looked easier for Minh at the beginning when he maintained a lead of four to five points. Home fans were silenced for sometime when Liew scored several consecutive points to make it 9-9.
Minh, stepped up his game and took the set 21-12 to win the match after 39 minutes.
Speaking after the game, Minh said, "I didn't feel too good at first, but after winning the first set, I felt at ease and played much better. Yet Daren Liew is a strong rival. He has improved a lot recently.
"The win today is very significant for me. I believe I will book a berth in the final match. The strongest rival for me is none other than the second seeded Japanese Sho Sasaki who beat me in the final match of the US Open Grand Prix Gold last month."
In another match, Japan's ace Sho Sasaki, ranked 9th in the world, had a lot of difficulty beating the 53rd-ranked Malaysian Muhammad Hafiz Hashim 11-21, 22-20, 21-19.