Hwang Jong-soo won the decisive fifth match to steer South Korea to a 3-2 win over a stubborn Germany on the opening day of the Thomas Cup badminton team championships in New Delhi on Sunday.
South Korea — runners-up to China in the event’s previous edition in 2012 — were facing an embarrassing setback when Germany made it 2-2 by winning the first two singles in between two defeats in the doubles.
However, Hwang kept his cool amid rising tension in the South Korea camp to defeat Lukas Schmidt 21-15, 21-16 in the decider and clinch an important win for his team in Group C.
Germany’s top player, Marc Zwiebler, said his team’s focus had been on the singles since South Korea are so strong in doubles.
“We knew from the start that we had to win all three singles to beat them, but this tie has raised our confidence and I hope we will do well in our remaining matches,” he said.
In Group D, Taiwan beat Russia 4-1, with Chou Tien-chen’s 21-18, 21-17 defeat to Vladimir Ivanov the only blemish on the Taiwanese side’s record.
Hsu Jen-hao beat Vladimir Malkov 21-13, 23-21, while Lin Yu-hsien routed Anton Ivanov 21-11, 21-11.
In the doubles ties, Taiwanese duo Chen Hung-ling and Lu Chia-pin edged Russia’s Anatoliy Yartsev and Rodion Kargaev 21-19, 21-18, while Lee Sheng-mu paired up with Tsai Chia-hsin to outclass Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov 21-19, 14-21, 21-10.
Meanwhile, runaway favorites China opened their campaign with fluent 5-0 wins in the Thomas Cup and the women’s Uber Cup.
World champion Lin Dan went on court after China, seeking a record sixth consecutive Thomas Cup, had opened up a 3-0 lead over France. He brushed aside Lucas Claerbout 21-5, 21-11.
In Group C, men’s world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei led Malaysia to a 4-1 win over hosts India, with R. Gurusaidutt preventing a clean sweep with a three-game win over Daren Liew in the fifth match.
In Group B, Denmark sailed past Hong Kong 4-1 and Japan beat England by a similar margin.
Denmark were inspired by world No. 3 Jan O Jorgensen’s 21-11, 21-16 win over Yun Hu in the opening singles, but Viktor Axelsen lost the second singles to Nan Wei in straight games.
Japan overcame a scare against England when their top player, the fourth-ranked Kenichi Tago, lost the opening game to Rajiv Ouseph, before fighting back to win 9-21, 22-20, 21-13.
In the Uber Cup, Indonesia and South Korea set off the Group X action with identical 5-0 routs of Australia and Singapore, while England squeezed past Taiwan 3-2 in Group W.
England’s Fontaine Mica Chapman overcame Taiwan’s Pai Hsiao-ma 22-20, 21-9, while Lee Cia-hsin and Yu Po-pai clawed some points back for Taiwan by defeating Nicola Cerfontyne 23-21, 21-13 and Sarah Walker 21-15, 16-21, 21-13 respectively.
In the doubles action, Gabrielle Adcock and Lauren Smith triumphed 15-21, 21-15, 21-13 over Cheng Wen-hsing and Hsieh Pei-chen, while Heather Olver and Kate Robertshaw outperformed Wang Pei-rong and Kuo Wen-yu 21-13, 21-13.
Despite blanking Russia in Group W, China’s women’s squad refused to call themselves the favorites to win their eighth Uber Cup in the past nine competitions since 1998.
“Winning one tie is not enough, there is a long way to go in the tournament,” world No. 2 Wang Yihan said after winning the second singles match. “There are many tough teams to play.”
In Group Y, India shutout Canada 5-0.