Sat, 15 May 2004

China blanks Korea for finals place

Eva C. Komandjaja and Novan Iman Santosa, Jakarta

Hot favorite China continued its perfect run in the Thomas Cup men's team badminton championship with another 3-0 win in the semifinals against South Korea at the Bung Karno Indoor Stadium here on Friday.

China's singles ace Lin Dan, the world No. 1, lived up to his ranking by stopping Lee Hyun-il 15-11, 15-2 in the match between the two left-handers.

Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng held off Kim Dong-moon and Lee Dong-soo to give the Chinese a 2-0 lead with a 15-13, 15-11 win.

Korea's hopes for a lifeline suffered a cruel setback as Shong Seung-mo was outwitted in his match against Bao Chunlai, crashing out 15-2, 15-5 to hand the Chinese an insurmountable lead.

Chinese team manager Li Yongbo said the result was up to expectations.

"We had assessed our strength against our opponents and analyzed which matches we could get our points from," he said.

Just as their female compatriots have proved the dominant force in the Uber Cup, the Chinese men have breezed past all their opponents, with their clinical 3-0 clean sweeps leaving their third singles and second doubles players idle.

"It would be good for my shuttlers if they all could play in each match," Li said through an interpreter.

"Of course, not playing will affect their performance. I will have to think about this," he said.

Li said he was not bothered whether China would meet Indonesia or Denmark in the final.

"If my shuttlers play like they did against South Korea, I am sure China will take the Thomas Cup this year," he said.

China may not have won the Thomas Cup since 1990, but it is looking increasingly likely that it will land the trophy this time around, with Friday's matches the latest proof.

Lin Dan was trailing world No. 5 Lee Hyun-il 8-0 in the first game before he capitalized on the Korean's loss of concentration to level the score 8-8.

After that, Lin was in control, with Lee only winning two more points in the game lasting 49 minutes.

South Koreans Kim Dong-moon and Lee Dong-soo put up more resistance in the doubles match between China world No. 2 team, Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng.

Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng snatched a 3-1 lead before the South Koreans equalized 5-5. The game soon became a neck-and-neck race with service swapping from one pair to the other.

The Chinese came within a point of winning the first game only to allow their opponents to catch up 14-13, before the champions ended it 15-13.

The second game saw another tight match as the South Koreans made the best of the Chinese team's flurry of errors.

The mistakes pushed Kim and Lee to a 11-9 lead but the pair failed to advance further after the Chinese turned the tide and won 15-11 in 79 minutes.

World No. 8 Shong Seung-mo failed to stop his side from exiting the competition as he was thumped 15-2, 15-5 by Bao Chunlai in the third match.