Malaysia still in running, Korea into final four
By Primastuti Handayani
KUALA LUMPUR (JP): Host Malaysia saved face in earning another chance to reach the semifinals by beating India 4-1 and South Korea upset favorite Denmark 3-2 in the Thomas Cup at the Putra Indoor Stadium here on Sunday.
Malaysia's first singles Wong Choong Hann got off to a shaky start in his debut as the opening singles against Pulella Gopichand.
In the first game, both shuttlers played nervously and tied at 12-12. Gopichand took two points to lead 14-12 but Wong, relying on his experience from the Commonwealth Games, forced deuce and took the game 17-14.
The second game was almost a repeat of the first except the Indian showed his mettle to take it 17-14.
In the decider, Gopichand, who recently recovered from a bout of typhoid, was mentally and physically spent, losing 1-15.
Malaysia's first doubles Lee Wan Wah and Choong Tan Fook seemed to wilt under the high expectations of 5,000 home crowd spectators, losing 7-15 in the first game to Markose Bristow and Vijaydeep Singh.
They quickly recouped to win 15-2, 15-1 in the next games to put the 1998 runner-up ahead 2-0.
It was a tough tussle in the third match between Yong Hock Kin and Nikhil Kanetkar but the inexperienced young Indian could not rise to demands at critical points. Yong won 15-9, 17-14.
The 1996 Olympic Games silver medalists Cheah Soon Kit and Yap Kim Hock were comfortable 15-6, 15-3 winners over George Thomas and Jaseel Ismail
India's only victory came when Roslin Hashim retired when trailing 10-15, 15-5, 4-8 to Sidharth Jain due to a right elbow injury.
Malaysia's team manager Mohamed Al Amin said he understood his first singles and doubles players were tense because they were new to playing for their country in the sport's most prestigious men's team event.
"This is the first Thomas Cup for Choon Hann, Tan Fook and Wan Wah to play as the first singles and doubles for Malaysia in Malaysia. The high demand from local spectators and the pressure of winning influenced their performance.
"I believe our players don't feel happy about their performance. We will try to create a more conducive situation to enable the players to gain more self-confidence for the next match."
In the night's upset tie, world number one Peter Gade Christensen of Denmark easily defeated South Korean Shon Seung-mo 15-5, 15-10.
The Korean pair of Kim Dong-moon and Ha Tae-kwon fought hard to overcome Martin Lundgaard Hansen and Lars Paaske 17-16, 15-5.
The biggest upset was when Danish second singles Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen, the 1996 Olympic gold medalist, lost in a thrilling struggle to Lee Hyun-il 15-13, 12-15, 12-15 in 67 minutes.
Lee, who also defeated Ong Ewe Hock in an earlier tie with Malaysia, forced the 34-year-old Dane into committing unforced errors with his neat net play.
Another upset occurred when world number three pairing Lee Dong-soo and Yoo Yong-sung were humiliated by Jens Eriksen and Jesper Larsen 10-15, 1-15.
In the decisive final match, Park Tae-sang sent Korea to the semifinals by defeating Kenneth Jonassen 15-7, 15-7.
In the Uber Cup purple group, heavily favored China smoothed its path to the semifinals with a 5-0 whitewashing of the Netherlands.
The only surprise of the tie was when Chinese first singles Dai Yun, number three in the world, lost a game to Judith Meulendijks, ranked 17, before recovering to win 11-3, 7-11, 11- 7.
Chinese head coach Li Yongbo expressed disappointment about Dai's form.
"It happened in every match, I wasn't really surprised. However, it depends on each player's performance. But Dai performed her usual play."
South Korea's women overwhelmed Sweden 5-0.
Denmark lost to South Korea 2-3: Peter Gade Christensen bt Shon Seung-mo 15-5, 15-10; Martin Lundgaard Hansen/Lars Paaske lost to Kim Dong-moon/Ha Tae-kwon 16-17, 5-15; Poul-Erik Hoyer-Larsen lost to Lee Hyun-il 15-13, 12-15, 12-15; Jesper Larsen/Jens Eriksen bt Lee Dong-soo/Yoo Yong-sung 15-10, 15-1; Kenneth Jonassen lost to Park Tae-sang 7-15, 7-15
Malaysia vs India: Wong Choong Hann bt Pulella Gopichand 17-14, 14-17, 15-1; Lee Wan Wah/Choong Tan Fook vs Bristow Markose/Vijaydeep Singh Yong Hock Kin bt Nikhil Kanetkar 15-9, 17-14; Cheah Soon Kit/Yap Kim Hock bt George Thomas/Jaseel Ismail 15-6, 15-3; Roslin Hashim lost to Sidharth Jain 10-15, 15-5, 4-8 (retired)
China bt Netherlands 5-0: Dai Yun bt Judith Meulendijks 11-3, 7-11, 11-7; Huang Nanyan/Yang Wei bt Nicole van Hooren/Lotte Jonathans 15-4, 15-2; Ye Zhaoying bt Karina de Wit 11-1, 11-0; Gao Ling/Qin Yiyuan bt Carolien Glebbeek/Betty Krab 15-0, 15-0; Gong Ruina bt Lonneke Janssen 11-6, 11-0
South Korea bt Sweden 5-0: Kim Ji-hyun bt Margit Borg 6-11, 13-12, 11-7; Lee Kyung-won bt Karolina Ericsson 11-2, 11-7; Kim Kyeung-ran vs Johanna Holgersson 11-7, 11-0; Lee Hyo-jung/Yim Kyung-jin bt Johanna Persson/Anna Lundin 15-8, 15-9; Lee Kyung-won/Chung Jae-hee bt Margit Borg/Johanna Holgersson 15-5, 15-7