SUDIRMAN CUP 2011 Day 3 – Thai magic fails; China sails

This evening in the Qingdao Sports Center, there were two very different scenarios – one being a “friendly match” between China and Japan who were both already holding their quarter-final […]

This evening in the Qingdao Sports Center, there were two very different scenarios – one being a “friendly match” between China and Japan who were both already holding their quarter-final tickets in hand, and the other of Thailand fighting hard against Chinese Taipei so as to not miss the last bus. The story ended with Thailand issuing Chinese Taipei the tickets by losing 2-3 to them, while China salvaged Japan with a clean-sheet victory.

By Ooi Ee Lyn, Badzine Correspondent. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live).

It probably was a slumberous evening for the Japanese, who drafted their secondary squad to match a fully armed China who, despite having already secured a spot in the quarter-finals, seemed determined to top their group. However, it was to the Japanese, a good timing to allow some other players a chance to star on the stage.

In the opening match between the two teams, Japan fielded their third men’s doubles pair, world #15 Shoji Sato / Naoki Kawamae, as a door gift for Cai Yun / Fu Haifeng. Cai / Fu took the match 21-15, 21-14 from the Japanese pair whom they had beaten in the Asia Championships in April.

Next on task was Sayaka Sato, semi-finalist in India less than a month ago, to try her luck against China’s third Wang – Wang Xin. Unfortunately, the Japanese didn’t manage to add her name to the list of players who have stolen victories from the Chinese ladies. The game ended in 34 minutes – a minute longer than the previous one – with 21-12, 21-11 on the Chinese veteran’s side.

With China’s grand slam hero Lin Dan next on the line-up, hopes were high that Super Dan would do a quick job to wrap up the tie for China. But sometimes, being stubborn isn’t a bad thing, for Japan’s Sho Sasaki was as stubborn as lichen on a roof, either leading, or creeping up close behind Lin Dan. Sasaki caught hold of two game points in the first game and, just when he was about to hammer it, he lost catch of the drift and sent two “free” points drifting to the Chinese, ending it 22-20 in favour of Lin Dan.

Sasaki continued the next game with the same show, still adamant to do his best. After fighting tooth and nail continuously taking turns to serve, the Japanese got stuck at the 15-14 lead, allowing his competitor to earn four consecutive points before they tied again at 18-all. Ditto was Sasaki’s determination, but the scene differed that this time, it was Super Dan’s turn to take the 20-18 lead. Finally, after one more taste at a point for the Japanese, Lin Dan hammered the game 21-19, as well as China’s 3-0 victory in the tie.

Yu Yang / Wang Xiaoli and Xu Chen / Ma Jin then patted the dust of their hands and showed up to get things done by defeating Mami Naito / Shizuka Matsuo and Nirokatsu Hashimoto / Mizuki Fujii respectively in straight games, allowing China to enjoy their first clean-sheet victory of the week before stepping into the quarter-finals along with their challenger of the night.

On court two, a mere few feet away from where the China-Japan tie took place, a distinctly different plot was afoot. Thailand, struck down by India on Monday, was trying to stop fate from deciding their destiny. They may have laid a seemingly odd line-up today, but they knew by heart that those were the people who could possibly bring them good news.

Maneepong Jongjit, the man in the men’s doubles game Monday night, was up first in the mixed doubles with Savitree Amitrapai. The pair, ranking third in Thailand, had recently defeated Chinese Taipei’s Chen Hung Ling / Chen Wen Hsing, their opponents today, in the Badminton Asia Championships in Chengdu last month. Sweet revenge was taken this time round, as the Taiwan pair returned their straight game defeat with yet another spontaneous match, beating the Thais 21-9, 21-10.

Startled by a bitter opening that arrived too soon, Thailand’s Superman, Boonsak Ponsana went on to defend the nation’s pride. The hero took on Taipei’s world #71 Chou Tien Chen, forcing Chou to surrender in two games of 21-15, pulling the tie to balance at 1-all.

The baton was then passed on to Songphon Anugritayawon and Bodin Issara – Jongjit’s men’s doubles partner last night – to contribute as a scratch pair. However, the Taiwanese were pleased to see that Lee Sheng Mu / Fang Chieh Min did not surrender to the unfamiliarity caused. The balance once again inclined towards Chinese Taipei with Lee/Fang’s straight game victory.

Taipei’s top women’s singles Cheng Shao Chieh was then welcomed by Ratchanok Intanon, the spectacular 16-year-old two-time World Junior champion, who was fresh off her upset of world #4 Saina Nehwal in straight games on Monday. The evening proved that Ratchanok was far more than just lucky as she silenced Taipei’s world #11 in 21-9, 21-17.

The young Thai’s victory added another weight onto the balancing lever to form another deadlock at 2-2. Unfortunately, it was quickly broken by Chen Wen Hsing / Chien Yu Chin – or perhaps by Thailand’s scratch pair of Thoungthongkam / Voravichitchaikul after smashing Thailand’s hope of a quarter-final visit with their 13-21, 12-21 defeat, concluding an overall 2-3 loss for Thailand.

Thailand then saw their fellow group division mates Chinese Taipei and India off at the platform, as the two strode off to their next destination, namely the quarter-finals.

Meanwhile in group 3, Sweden triumphed over Bulgaria 4-1, losing only the women’s singles to Bulgaria’s world #225 Dimitria Popstovkova. Vietnam, experiencing the atmosphere in a mixed team’s event for the first time, triumphed over South Africa with a 5-0 victory, while Australia’s light shone over Peru with a close 3-2 success after losing in both single’s discipline to the Peruvians.

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About Ee-Lyn Ooi