Saturday, April 20

China stamp supremacy


KUALA LUMPUR: Olympic champion Lin Dan crushed world number one Datuk Lee Chong Wei in a Clash of the Titans yesterday as China outgunned hosts Malaysia to set up a Thomas Cup final with second seeds Indonesia.

Defending champions outgun M’sia, set up Indonesia showdown in Thomas Cup


The odds were stacked against Malaysia with China fielding some of the world’s best players and a win by Chong Wei seen as their only chance of getting through.

But a capacity, 16,000 crowd sensed their team was on its way out when left-handed world number two Lin pipped an out-of-sorts Chong Wei 21-17 in the first set before sealing the Malaysian star’s fate with 21-8 thrashing in the second.

The tournament favourites turned the thumbscrews with doubles world number eight Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng overwhelming Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong to win 21-15, 21-10.

And China killed off Malaysia’s hopes when world number three Chen Ji proved too good for Wong Choong Hann, who crashed 21-16, 21-7 handing the partisan support an anti-climactic end to a day of cheers, jeers, bangs and whistles.

China will be favourites today against Indonesia, who smashed their way to a record 17th Thomas Cup final earlier, delivering Japan an unforgettable master class in athleticism, agility and passion.

But China’s chief coach Li Yongbo said any scoreline was possible and his players would have to be on top of their game.

“The Malaysians played well today and tried their best,” he added. “I still respect Malaysia a lot but overall the Chinese players were better than the Malaysians and that is why we won.”

Thirteen-time champions Indonesia strolled to victory with a 3-1 win in front of large and vocal support at the Putra Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, breaking stride only occasionally to change ends and wipe down their racquets. The second seeds’ world number five Taufik Hidayat hit his best form so far, forcing All England runner-up Kenichi Tago all over the court with a nonchalant mix of passes, disguised drop shots and smashes to win 21-9, 21-14.

“I feel like I am getting better and better,” said the former world and Olympic champion, who has been winning despite inconsistent form in the early stages of the tournament. “It wasn’t an easy game for me but I’m going to improve my game for the final. What counts is I’m fighting for my country.”

Indonesia looked fresh after an easy path through the quarters and capitalised on a weary Japan, who had scraped to a five-set win against Malaysia in an epic encounter.

“There is no doubt my condition wasn’t very good but I couldn’t figure out why, and that was the problem,” Tago said. “Taufik is the best player ever.”

Indonesia’s Olympic champion doubles pairing of Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan piled on the agony, dispatching Kenichi Hayakawa and Kenta Kazuno 21-9, 21-11 in just 22 minutes to put Indonesia 2-0 up. Only Japan’s Sho Sasaki was able to offer resistance, beating Indonesia’s Simon Santoso, who was picked as second singles player to replace the injured Sony Dwi Kuncoro.

“Frankly, I did not even think that I will be playing here in Kuala Lumpur,” Sasaki said. “But it has turned out to be a pleasant surprise for me. I thank the coaches for the trust they showed in me. It has been a great run for the team.”

Order was restored when Indonesian pairing Nova Widianto and Alvent Yulianto Chandra saw off Noriyasu Hirata and Hiroyuki Endo 21-14, 22-20. — AFP