China, Indonesia both confident of Thomas Cup
By Primastuti Handayani
KUALA LUMPUR (JP): Indonesia and China, the two candidates for the Thomas Cup, both expressed confidence in winning Sunday's final at the Putra Indoor Stadium.
Defending champion Indonesia, aiming to win the cup for the 12th time, will be very careful in fielding its shuttlers in the final encounter, after sweating it out to defeat European dynamite Denmark 3-2 in Friday's semifinals.
Deputy team manager Hadi Nazri said on Friday: "We have the chance to win the cup, but Sunday will be the climax for the toughest matches. I just hope our shuttlers performance can be more relaxed, instead of being very tensed like tonight. I believe they have intensified their fighting spirit and motivation to take the trophy home."
The Indonesian squad is hoping to repeat the excellent performance of their predecessors, the seven magnificent -- Rudy Hartono, Christian Hadinata, Ade Chandra, Liem Swie King, Tjun Tjun, Johan Wahyudi and Iie Sumirat -- who retained the cup for four consecutive times during the 1970s.
On the other hand, Chinese head coach Li Yongbo, a former double ace, said: "We feel very confident about the final, especially after seeing my boys play so well against South Korea."
China thrashed South Korea 3-1 in Thursday's semifinals.
Both China and Indonesia met in the round-robin yellow group match, when China opted to put first singles Xia Xuanze, world number seven, on the bench. Indonesia managed to win 4-1.
On Sunday, China is likely to put its ace in the first match against Hendrawan. Xia has a 2-0 lead over Hendrawan, as he beat the 27-year-old Indonesian in the All England and Swiss Open in March.
Hendrawan said: "I have only a one-day break to prepare for Sunday's final against Xia. I've lost to him twice but it has motivated me to take revenge."
The second singles match will see teenage sensation Taufik Hidayat face world number eight Ji Xinpeng.
"I have never met Ji but I will take revenge on any player I face in the final as I lost to Xia in the All England final."
"I think Ji played better than Xia as his technical skills are better. But I play much better in a team event, as I learned from my experiences in the Sudirman Cup, the Asian Games and the Southeast Asian Games. I may have more experience and I'll try my best," said the world number five Indonesian.
The stylish Marlev Mainaky, world number six, is expected to meet Lou Yigang in the third singles match. It will be their first match, but regarding Marlev's performance here, he is hoping to be able to overcome the Chinese number nine.
Li said he was optimistic one of his doubles, especially the second of Zhang Wei and Zhang Jun, would be able to steal one point from Indonesia, which had been recognized as a dominant power in doubles.
In the group match, Rexy Mainaky and Ricky Subagja, world number seven, had to bow out to number 11, Zhang and Zhang.
Should Indonesia field the same line-up it used when it faced Denmark, its team manager Sumaryono must be able to speak to both Candra Wijaya and Sigit Budiarto, the 1997 world champion, whose performance on Friday was still far from satisfaction.
Candra and Sigit were very close to victory but spoiled their chance before finally losing to Danish Jens Eriksen and Jesper Larsen 15-8, 15-17, 16-17.
If Sumaryono manages to overcome the two boys psychological barrier, especially in critical points, they could be the perfect choice to contest Zhang and Zhang.
The first doubles are likely to see Rexy Mainaky and Tony Gunawan face Yu Jinhao and Chen Qiqiu.