For Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin, there were no chances left: Either beat the world’s top-ranked men’s doubles badminton team from Indonesia for the first time or see their Olympic hopes dashed in the preliminary round.
The world No. 3 Taiwanese duo answered the challenge, edging past Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in their final Group A match 21-18, 15-21, 21-17 to qualify for the final eight knockout round.
“We finally made it,” Lee wrote on Facebook after beating the Indonesian duo.
However, he said that the competition still had a long way to go.
“We’re happy not only because we won, but because we were able to score a breakthrough,” Wang wrote on Facebook.
In a match that was tight throughout, the Taiwanese duo tried to apply pressure, attacking whenever possible, taking chances at the net to pick off shots early and keeping their opponents off balance.
While that worked in the first game, unforced errors, mostly defensive shots that went beyond the baseline, began to haunt them in the next frame, helping the Indonesians even up the match.
In the decider, Lee and Yang held a narrow lead for much of the game, but it took repeated smashes, an opportune net cord and a few errors by their opponents to take them to victory.
“They played very well because they really need to win this match to pass the group stage,” Gideon said. “Their style is fast and they didn’t make mistakes.”
To advance to the final eight, Lee and Yang had to finish in the top two of their group, and their chances seemed bleak after they were upset in their opening group match by the world No. 10 duo from India, Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty.
They then defeated Ben Lane and Sean Vendy from the UK before securing a 2-1 record in Group A with their victory yesterday, putting them in a three-way tie with the teams from Indonesia and India.
However, the Indian team were eliminated because they only won one more game than they lost (4-3) in their three matches, while the Taiwanese had a plus-2 rating (5-3).
Lee and Wang have played together since 2019, and had high expectations coming into the Olympics after sweeping three high-level tournaments, including the HSBC Badminton World Federation World Tour Finals in Thailand this year.
Additional reporting by Reuters
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