THOMAS CUP QF – A great disturbance in the Cup

A great disturbance was felt in the badminton world, when a nation that had always maintained a top 4 finish in the Thomas Cup, suddenly had its semi-final entry blocked.  […]

A great disturbance was felt in the badminton world, when a nation that had always maintained a top 4 finish in the Thomas Cup, suddenly had its semi-final entry blocked.  It was none other than Team Korea who showed their rebel tenacity in taking down the critical matches that China had counted so heavily on. 

By Kira Rin.  Photos: Yohan Nonotte for Badmintonphoto (live)

Rising Son over the Dragon

Son Wan Ho (pictured top) started off the strong foot, putting out his furthest reach to return shots to open spots.  Long rallies lead to yet longer rallies as both players struggled for the critical first match.  Despite being defeated by a 9-point margin in the first game, Chen Long (pictured) came back strongly to take the second game with his longer reach.

With the third game holding the fate of the first match, both players further pushed the very limits of reach and speed.  The Rising Son proved himself to be the star of the match, with his superhuman speed leaving Chen struggling to read him.

Cannon’s positioning

Fu Haifeng was China’s cannon (炮), relying on the supporting piece of Zhang Nan to ensure his attacks went over.  Taking a very narrow first game lead of 25-23, the Chinese pair were running at a high tension, keeping the attack against the Korean world #1s.

Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong (pictured), however, made use of every attack opportunity to force furious smashing barrages that would end with finishes closer to the net.  Saving 3 match points to convert at the first available game point in the second, the Koreans were riding high on a wave of their own.

With the Chinese pair forced to the defensive, the cannon had no frontal piece to support the offense.  Lee and Yoo finally took the deciding game without incident 21-12 to put Korea up by two matches.

Super Dan – A glimmer of hope

With China already down 0-2, all eyes were on the great man in the hope that he could effect a turnabout.  Lin Dan (pictured) put his wealth of experience to use, seemingly able to hold long rallies with almost no effort while forcing Lee Dong Keun into disadvantageous positions.  Using his reach, Lin would take shots that were dangerously close to the floor and yet have the accuracy to hit into open spaces.

Lee Dong Keun was left almost without opportunity to score, with his smashes negated by tight net shots on his cross line while high shots were almost always punished by an in-position Lin Dan, poised to attack with his favourite pinpoint smashes.  With a loud cheer from the crowd, Lin took China’s hope up a notch, scoring with the biggest margin in the tie.

A double helping of golden luck

A scratch pairing of tall Li Junhui and quick-footed Zheng Siwei (pictured) went up against Korea’s double Kims.  An element of surprise was in store as the Kims were caught out by Junhui’s reach.  The 1.95m 21-year-old’s smashes seemed lighting fast with his early and high contact point.

Compared to the Chinese pair’s height difference of 21cm, the Korean’s tiny difference of 1cm meant that it was an easier task for them to swap smashing roles, and combined with their experience at the top 5, saw the golden Kims sweep the fateful match with a quick drive.

Long, long ago…

It seems almost like a galaxy far, far away imagining the time when China was not a fixture in world badminton but that’s the era one has to go back to to find a time when there was no Chinese team in the Thomas Cup semi-finals.  China won the Cup in 1982, the first time they entered the competition, and in fact went on to win it four times in their first five straight final appearances.

For two-time finalist Korea, this was the first ever victory over China in the Thomas Cup finals.  The Koreans have had other successes over China in men’s team competitions, however, winning men’s team gold all three times that the Asian Games were held in Korea and more recently beating an under-strength China at the Asian Team Championships in Hyderabad.

Also worth noting is that Chen Long, despite being the world #1 and two-time World Champion, has yet to lead China to a major men’s team competition.  Kenichi Tago took a point from Chen in the 2014 Thomas Cup semi-final and then a few months later, Son beat him in the gold medal tie at the Incheon Asian Games.

Any more upsets?

The only other upset in a quarter-final tie on Thursday came in the afternoon session.  Ratchanok Intanon got Thailand off to a winning start but then India bounced back to take the next three points to secure their spot in the Uber Cup semi-finals when world #119 Ruthvika Shivani Gadde took down #25 Nitchaon Jindapon.  The Indians go on to face the defending champion Chinese team.

Korea’s opponent in the Thomas Cup semi-finals will be Indonesia.  They took the expected victory over Hong Kong but things were a little more complicated this time.  In the first men’s doubles, Or Chin Chung / Tang Chun Man had learned from their narrow 20-22, 20-22 defeat to World Champions Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (pictured bottom) in the round robin stage and converted that into a straight game win over the world #2 pair this time.

Denmark barely scraped through their tie against Japan.  Takuma Ueda, one of the heroes of the 2014 victory run for Japan, produced an upset over world #5 Jan Jorgensen and it was left to Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (pictured) to wrap up the only quarter-final tie to go the full five-match distance.

Click here for complete quarter-final results

About Kira Rin