Tue, May 20, 2008 - Page 18 News List

Rampant China in Thomas Cup triumph

AFP , JAKARTA

Bao Chunlai of China returns the shuttlecock to Lee Hyun-il of South Korea during their Thomas Cup finals match in Jakarta on Sunday.

PHOTO: EPA

A rampant China underlined their dominance of badminton on Sunday by shattering South Korea’s dream of claiming a first Thomas Cup team championship with a 3-1 victory.

The win gave China both the Thomas Cup and the Uber Cup after their women romped past hosts Indonesia for a sixth consecutive title on Saturday, boosting morale ahead of the Olympics in less than three months’ time.

The Chinese men were raging favorites, with three of the world’s top four singles players on their team, but South Korea have been a revelation here and no one ruled out an upset.

World No. 1 Lin Dan was first up and eager to salvage his battered pride after a demoralizing defeat to Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei in Friday’s semi-final.

But it was never going to be easy against the fast-improving Park Sung-hwan, who surprisingly held a 3-2 record over the Chinese star before the final.

And Lin looked vulnerable, crumbling 10-21 in the opening set as he struggled to conquer his nerves. But with his girlfriend, women’s world No. 1 Xie Xingfang, watching anxiously from the sidelines, he recovered his composure and fought back to take the second 21-18.

With the crowd firmly behind the Chinese, Park’s inexperience got the better of him and Lin rammed home the advantage to win the decider 21-8.

It could have been a devastating blow for the South Koreans, but doubles pair Jung Jae-sung and Lee Yong-dae hauled them back into the tie by beating Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng 25-23, 21-16.

The turning point came in the first set of the showdown between Bao Chunlai and Lee Hyun-il which turned into a titanic struggle that the Chinese world No. 3 eventually won 28-26.

The demoralized Lee never recovered and lost the second set 21-11.

It was left to Xie Zhongbo and Guo Zhendong to seal the win by beating Lee Jae-jin and Hwang Ji-man in three sets.

Lin said he knew how important it was to clinch the opening match, but let the pressure affect his performance early in the game.

“I knew I had to win the match and there was a lot of pressure. I was nervous and was not able to play 100 percent,” he said. “But I regained my focus and came back and was able to play my usual game in the second and third sets.”

He added that winning the tournament was vitally important for China going into their home Olympics in August.

“The Thomas Cup was one of our two main goals this year, the other being the Olympics,” he said.

Bao echoed similar sentiments, saying that he was proud to keep his focus against Lee.

“I didn’t expect it to be so close and I’m very, very happy that I was able to keep my focus, overcome the pressure and win the game,” he said.

South Korean team manager Kim Jong-soo said he was disappointed, but proud.

“Of course I’m disappointed, but China were the better team,” he said.

The victory deprived South Korea of becoming only the fourth country after China, Indonesia and Malaysia to get their hands on the prestigious trophy.

They would also have been the first team to become champions after losing their group matches, a contentious tactic that gave them an easier route to the final.

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