Thursday, May 22, 2014
Text by Dev Sukumar
India rode on frenzied home support to assure themselves of a first-ever Uber Cup medal at the Li-Ning BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals 2014 today.
The Indians survived anxious moments against Indonesia before cruising home 3-0. Defending champions China took lesser time in recording a similar 3-0 result over England, while in Thomas Cup action, Indonesia nixed Korea and Malaysia stunned Denmark to enter the last-four stage. India take on Japan while China play Korea in the Uber Cup semi-finals, while in the Thomas Cup, Malaysia clash with Indonesia and China with Japan.
The Siri Fort Complex had turned into noisy cauldron today with home stars Saina Nehwal and Company attempting to create history for India. Nehwal, who hasn’t been in the best of form in recent times, took her time to get going against Lindaweni Fanetri, but once she had pocketed the first game, she was back to her confident old self and smashed winners at will, to finish victorious at 21-17 21-10.
The second match had the crowd in rapt attention as the advantage swung from Sindhu to her opponent Bellaetrix Manuputty (above). Despite being ranked 13 places below her Indian opponent, Manuputty produced a valiant performance that nearly toppled India’s hopes. With victory in sight, both players drove themselves past their limits, until Sindhu at last forced the fatal error from her opponent after both had saved match points: 21-16 10-21 25-23.
Manuputty was speechless for a long while after the match. Sindhu gave credit to her opponent for the memorable challenge.
“She was returning everything, she just wasn’t letting any shuttle go by,” Sindhu said.
Manuputty admitted that her inability to force the issue at a crucial point took the match away. “When I had the lead in the third game, I didn’t force the rally. I attacked when I was down, but by then it was too late.”
Ashwini Ponnappa and Jwala Gutta (featured image) ensured the third point for India with a dominant 21-18 21-18 win over Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari.
The other tie that had the crowd on the edge of their seats was the Thomas Cup clash between Indonesia and Korea.
Korea drew first blood with Son Wan Ho edging past Tommy Sugiarto 23-21 24-22. World champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan had never taken a game off their Korean opponents Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong in three previous matches, but they enjoyed a strong start and broke the jinx. By the third game both pairs appeared nervous and erratic at times. It was the Indonesian pair that survived the ordeal, winning 21-15 17-21 21-19.
The next two matches were split through wins by Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka (Indonesia) and Kim Ki Jung/Kim Sa Rang (Korea), setting the stage for a tense battle between Simon Santoso (above) and Korea’s Hwang Jong Soo.
Santoso’s superior netplay settled the issue in his favour, for he dared to spin the shuttle over the tape time after time with Hwang hovering in front. A spinning netshot on his first match point gave the tie to Indonesia at 21-12 22-20.
* Malaysia’s tactic in fielding the non-regular combination of Tan Wee Kiong and Goh V Shem (above) again worked wonders as they helped themselves to a 3-1 result over Denmark. Chong Wei Feng won his fourth match in a row as he ensured the critical second singles for Malaysia, enabling them to go 2-1 up. Denmark pair Carsten Mogensen and Joachim Fischer Nielsen had been in red-hot form against Japan yesterday, but Tan and Goh tied them in knots with a better tactical display.
* “All the tactics and planning on the combinations was done by our coaches,” said Tan Wee Kiong. “I think Fischer and Mogensen were a bit nervous today.”
* The only unusual note during China’s winning performance over England in the Uber Cup was in the first doubles, when the formidable Chinese pair of Bao Yixin/Tang Jinhua (right) found themselves six game points down against Gabrielle Adcock/Lauren Smith. The Chinese dramatically turned it around from there with eight straight points, before accelerating to a 22-20 21-10 victory.
For today’s results, click here.