S. Korea in historic win over China

KUALA LUMPUR: South Korea made history yesterday by ending China’s 12-year stranglehold on the Uber Cup with a 3-1 victory that saw China’s world number one Wang Yihan sensationally lose in straight sets.

SWEET VICTORY: South Korea’s players celebrate inside the court with their trophy after winning the Uber Cup final against China at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil. — AFP photo

SWEET VICTORY: South Korea’s players celebrate inside the court with their trophy after winning the Uber Cup final against China at Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil. — AFP photo

The South Koreans were expected to buckle under the might of a team that fired a massive 686 points in four ties, finishing victors in every one of their 16 rubbers and winning 32 sets while conceding just one.

But the fans sensed an upset when Bae Seung Hee, ranked 16, out-battled, out-thought and outclassed Wang in the first singles rubber and set the tone for five gruelling hours of stunning badminton from the South Koreans.

Bae, who has been impeccable after losing in the group stages, kept her cool to pip Wang 23-21 in a tense first set before pressuring her opponent into a series of errors to seal the rubber with a 21-11 win at Putra Stadium.

Wang, crowned world player of the year last Sunday, was uncharacteristically indecisive at the net and on four occasions let the shuttle fly over her head, expecting it to go long only to see it land inside.

“The China team is so strong I didn’t have any pressure,” said a jubilant Bae, who had played Wang twice and lost twice before yesterday. “I just wanted to play and enjoy the game. Maybe that’s the reason I won.”

The Uber Cup debutante had done her homework, analysing Wang’s gameplay on video before the match. She said she realised pushing the ball long would be her best chance of winning.

“Wang Yihan made crucial mistakes over and over and her defensive side was pretty raw,” said Bae, who has come a long way since losing all her matches in the qualifying rounds in Thailand.

The record book favoured China, with South Korea unable to beat them in five Uber Cup finals since 1988, and order ought to have been restored by the world’s top doubles team, Ma Jin and Wang Xiaoli.

But their opponents, Lee Hyo Jung and Kim Min Jung, defied history and held their nerve in another thrilling three-set rubber to win 18-21, 21-12, 21-15.

“They were thinking too much of winning and they struggled up to the end,” said Lee. “But starting from the second game we just went with our momentum and everything went smoothly for us.”

“The Chinese are really fast and strong so all we thought was not to make any mistakes.”

The wheel spun back towards China, holders of the biennial Uber Cup since 1998, when world number two Wang Xin proved too good for South Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun, who crashed 21-14, 16-21, 21-7 to put the tie back within reach.

But Lee Kyung Won/Ha Jung Eun sealed a thrilling finale in the doubles and took the cup, beating Du Jing/Yu Yang 19-21, 21-14, 21-19. — AFP

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