Monday, May 16, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
France gave another superlative performance today, winning hearts but not matches as they went down to China in the tough Group A of the TOTAL BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals 2016 today.
So impressive were the French that they won praise from all of China’s top players. Chen Long stated that the top two singles players had taken after their coach Peter Gade, while Fu Haifeng expressed great admiration for Gaetan Mittelheisser, who, along with Ronan Labar, nearly stole the thunder from China’s top doubles pair. Lin Dan chipped in at the end, acknowledging the progress France had made.
Thomas Rouxel had nearly beaten Japan’s Sho Sasaki in yesterday’s match and he carried his form into the opening singles against Chen Long. While Chen was never under threat, Rouxel held his own through several passages of play, eventually falling 21-9 21-12.
Labar and Mittelheisser (featured image) played like a team possessed. Unfazed by Fu or Zhang’s thunderous attack and barrage of shots, the French countered forcefully and had momentum going for them. A slice of luck and some astute play when they were staring at three game points helped the Chinese finish the match in straight games, 21-16 22-20.
“We were a little nervous and a bit eager,” said Fu, who was all praise for the French duo. “Our opponents proved they are very strong, especially the shorter guy (Mittelheisser). He played at 200 percent, he’s worthy of respect. It was a difficult match, their serves especially caused us a lot of trouble.”
“Very good match… we almost won the second game,” said Mittelheisser. “I’m quite happy for our first match together. There were a lot of good things in the match. We know we can play at this level in other tournaments like the Superseries.”
Lin Dan was in for more surprise against Lucas Claerbout. The Frenchman played with pace and power to take the first game and send some anxious ripples in the crowd. Lin took his time to settle, but once his iron control had begun to exert itself, Claerbout ran into a wall: 20-22 21-14 21-8.
“When I was preparing for the match I didn’t think it would be this tough,” said Lin. “I felt a lot of pressure because there is so much attention on us at home. Also, the French are playing well. Peter Gade was a great player and has brought up the French singles players to a high level.”
Li Junhui and Zheng Siwei made it 4-0 for China beating Bastian Kersaudy and Julien Maio. Tian Houwei wrapped up proceedings beating Lucas Corvee 21-17 21-12.
Korea too recorded a 5-0 whitewash of England in Group C of the Thomas Cup. Son Wan Ho prevented England from getting early momentum, as he stopped Rajiv Ouseph 21-19 21-19.
Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong made it 2-0 over Marcus Ellis/Chris Langridge; Lee Dong Keun had trouble against Toby Penty but prevailed in a close match, 22-20 21-18.
Ko Sung Hyun/Shin Baek Cheol and Jeon Hyeok Jin killed England’s chances of salvaging a point, beating Matthew Nottingham/Harley Towler and Sam Parsons respectively.
In Uber Cup matches, Japan, led by big guns Nozomi Okuhara, Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi and Akane Yamaguchi, overwhelmed Germany 5-0 in Group D, while in Group B, Chinese Taipei demolished USA with a similar score.
Group A: China bt France 5-0; Group C: Korea bt England 5-0
Group B: Chinese Taipei bt USA 5-0; Group D: Japan bt Germany 5-0