Friday, May 20, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Indonesia and China stayed on course for their 14th team title in the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup respectively, making the title rounds in Kunshan today.
Indonesia made their first Thomas Cup final since 2010, recovering from an opening loss to eventually coast to victory over Korea, 3-1. China had some trouble in the singles but still won all three of their matches against India.
Korea, having beaten China in a thriller last evening, were expected to have the edge against Indonesia. Men’s Singles spearhead Son Wan Ho took on Jonatan Christie looking in as fine a touch as he had in his dismantling of Chen Long. Christie, wary of Son’s pace, chose to rely on working the shuttle around, but the strategy just didn’t work, and although he was more aggressive in the second, he was inconsistent when the opportunity arose. Son quickly shut the door on him, 21-10 21-16.
“I think it was my experience that made the difference as Christie is still on his way up,” said Son. “I had a long match against Chen Long yesterday but I felt fine today. Badminton is not just about the physical aspect, it’s about good touch and movement too.”
Doubles icons Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong had momentum going into their fixture against Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan. Their sensational come-from-behind victory over China’s Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan still hung in the air; Ahsan and Setiawan, on the other hand, had been distinctly below par in the tournament.
The Koreans, however, were too rusty from the efforts of the previous evening, so different from the quicksilver feet and astonishing reflexes that they had demonstrated. Unable to last in the rallies and unable to smash for long spells, the Koreans looked unrecognisable from the electric duo they had been last night. Ahsan and Setiawan picked winners at will, finishing the match in just 34 minutes: 21-15 21-12.
“We were definitely affected by yesterday’s long match and there wasn’t enough time to recover,” said Lee. “However, the match is over, and credit to the Indonesians. They played better than us. Physically, they were in better condition.”
The second of Indonesia’s youngsters, Anthony Ginting, was thrust into the battle in the second singles, and despite his lack of experience, bustled his way to a 21-18 21-18 verdict over Lee Dong Kuen. The Indonesian set a quick tempo, and Lee never quite appeared confident of reversing the momentum.
The second doubles took everybody by surprise. Kim Gi Jung and Kim Sa Rang were expected to be more than a match for Ricky Karanda Suwardi and Angga Pratama, but the Indonesians outfoxed them tactically. Pratama and Suwardi were on the ball from the first point, and for the duration of the match gave the Koreans nothing to work with. Kim and Kim woke up too late, stitching together a sequence of points to make things edgy for their opponents. Even as their team (featured image) sang encouragement from the stands, the Indonesians made it home on their third match point, 21-15 21-18.
“Since we left Indonesia, our focus has only been on the next step,” said PBSI High Performance Director Rexy Mainaky. “We were ready for China or Korea in the semi-finals. It was an excellent performance and I couldn’t be happier. As they were getting close to winning, I could almost feel what Angga and Ricky were feeling on court. Now we have to analyse our opponents of the final.”
China Overcome India 3-0
India resisted China in the singles, but Li Xuerui and Wang Shixian delivered for the home country and then it was easy sailing.
Nehwal’s battle with Li Xuerui in the opening singles wasn’t quite a thriller in the manner of some of their earlier matches. Both had erratic spells, but there were some extreme displays of athleticism and skill as well. Nehwal stayed level until 13 in the third, after which she fell apart: 21-15 12-21 21-17.
PV Sindhu blew her chances to take Wang Shixian to a third game in the second singles. The Indian had an 18-8 lead but Wang kept at it and caught up at 20. She soon had her victory in the bag, 21-13 23-21.
“I was preparing to play the third game,” said Wang. “Luckily, she made some mistakes and I was able to catch up.”
Dwelling for a while on the men’s team loss yesterday, Wang urged fans to support them.
“Of course everybody won’t be happy with their loss, but we wish for fans to continue to support us. I cannot help him (Chen Long) technically, but I can help him overcome his self-doubt.”
The doubles was a mismatch as Jwala Gutta and Sikki Reddy were brutally dealt with by World champions Tian Qing/Zhao Yunlei, 21-6 21-6, in 25 minutes.