Sixteen nations begun the week in Wuhan but come the weekend, only two remain. China and Korea will fight it out for Uber Cup glory on Saturday, then once more for the Thomas Cup on Sunday.
Korea’s hopes this week fell on a squad without Jung Jae Sung, but Lee Hyun Il gave them the perfect start with a victory over Peter Gade, whose form recently has been far from the heights of even a year ago. Boe and Mogensen ensured parity after 2 matches with a convincing two game victory over Ko and Yoo. Then came the between the world number 13 and 14 for a chance to put their nation within a match of the Thomas Cup final. Shon Wan Ho defeated Jan O Jorgensen in three games to put Korea on the brink of the final. 73 minutes later, they were in the final as Lee and Kim defeated Rasmussen and Fischer Neilsen to ensure Korea’s place in Sunday’s final. For Denmark, it was a stunning loss that could have been avoided had Gade not lost his opening singles, with Viktor Axelsen waiting in the 5th match to take on the world number 166 Lee Dong Keun.
China needed just 3 matches and 6 games to book their place in the final. Lin Dan started the semi final with a two game victory over Sho Sasaki, soon followed by Cai and Fu winning their doubles. Chen Long completed the task against Kenichi Tago in an hour to book China’s place in the Thomas Cup Final.
It was a pair of one-sided finals in the Uber Cup, with Korea defeating Japan 3-0 with the loss of just a single game but the story this week has been the dominance of the Chinese. Wang Yihan started with a two game victory over Inthanon Ratchanok, then the world number 1 pairing of Wang and Yu put China within a match of the final but the most impressive performance was left until last. Wang Xin’s stunning 21-17, 21-2 victory over Porntip Buranaprasertsuk was a message of intent after their stunning 2010 loss to Korea in the Uber Cup final.
Three powerhouses in world badminton have all safely progressed into the semi final stages of both events, with Denmark and Thailand hoping to claim at least one title in Wuhan this week.
China’s 3-0 victory was a foregone conclusion without the presence of Lee Chong Wei, Daren Liew gave them a brief moment of hope when he surprisingly took the opening game against Lin Dan, only for the world number 2 to fight back to win the next two dropping just 14 points. Cai and Fu doubled the advantage with a two game victory over Koo and Tam before Chen Long sealed the 3-0 win in two games. Their opponents in the semi final will be Japan, who needed all five games to seal their place in the last 4 against Indonesia. Santoso gave Indonesia a 1-0 lead before Kido and Setiawan once against lost to a lower ranked pair and have been the weak point of the Indonesian team this week. Kenichi Tago defeated Taufik Hidayat to put Japan on the brink of the semi final, only for Ahsan and Septano to win a vital elimination match to take the rubber to the final match. Takuma Ueda stunning victory over Dionysius Hayom Runbaka gave Japan a 3-2 victory and a place in Friday’s semi final.
Korea and Denmark meet in the second semi final, with both nations progressing 3-0. Denmark were too strong for Russia, as they dropped just a single game on route to the last 4. Korea also only dropped a single match on route to the last 4 and both nations will be pleased to have missed China in the semi finals.
China were simply too strong for a German squad without Juliane Schenk to lead the line, the 3-0 victory was an accurate result given the gulf in class between the two nations. China’s opponents in the semi final are Thailand, who defeated Denmark 3-1 in their quarter final. Denmark were always going to need two special performances to have any chance against the Thais, but Tine Baun’s sole victory in the opening singles was all that they could get as they fell in 4 matches.
The current Uber Cup champions Korea were one game away from elimination, down 2-1 and level at one game all in the 4th match of their rubber against Chinese Taipei. The world number 3 pairing of Ha and Kim lost their match, as well as the world number 13 Bae Youn Joo after Sung Ji Hyun’s opening victory. Kim and Jung won the 4th match in three games to take the game to a 5th and deciding match, where Hwang Hye Youn won the 3rd singles match to ensure Korea’s qualification into the last 4 in a quarter final that should have been a routine victory. Japan made hard work of their quarter final also, squandering a 2-0 lead after Eriko Hirose and the world number 7 pairing of Niato and Matsuo also failed to win their matches to make the score 2-2 going into the final match. Minatsu Mitani saved Japan’s blushes with a two game victory to reach the semi final stage, with both nations supposed stronger players failing to perform on the day.
The 2012 Thomas and Uber Cup Finals have seen their fair share of shock results, but the biggest scare of the week so far is Lee Chong Wei’s ankle injury sustained in his match against Peter Gade.
The host nation China had little trouble in winning Group A, with a pair of 5-0 victories over Indonesia and England with the loss of just one game in the 10 matches. Indonesia claimed second place in the group with a 4-1 victory over England to reach the quarter final stage. Japan topped Group B with a perfect record of 10 victories without the loss of a single game, defeating Russia and New Zealand 5-0. Russia claimed the second place in the with their own 5-0 victory over New Zealand to reach the last 8.
Denmark topped Group C after defeating Malaysia in a tight 3-2 victory, but only due to Lee Chong Wei’s retirement in the opening match against Peter Gade. Leading 2-1 in the opening game, the world number twisted his ankle awkwardly attempting to play a routine drop shot and was forced to retire from the match. The estimation of his layoff is set to be 3-4 weeks but other sources claim that the ankle injury is much more serious and the chances of making the Olympics are unlikely. Denmark claimed both doubles matches to ensure a 3-2 victory and top spot in the group whilst Malaysia progress to the last 8 but will be without Lee Chong Wei for the rest of the event. Korea top Group D with a narrow 3-2 victory over Germany as both nations reach the last 8 with both Korea and Germany defeating the US.
China also topped Group A in the Uber Cup after a both of withdrawals in their final match against Indonesia ensured a second 5-0 victory in the group. Indonesia will also go through to the last 8 after defeating South Africa earlier in the group. Thailand and Chinese Taipei go through from Group B, with both nations losing a match in the group stage, the Netherlands shocked Chinese Taipei in the opening match of the group whilst Thailand defeated Netherlands 5-0 before going down 3-2 to Chinese Taipei, meaning the group went down to matches won.
Korea safely progressed without the loss of a match in Group C as Germany’s singles players ensured their place in the last 8 with a tight 3-2 win over Australia to ensure their qualification. Japan edged out Denmark for top spot in Group D as the Dane led Japan 2-0 in the final group match, only for the Japanese to win the next three games and win the rubber as well as the Group.
It was a week for parity to be restored within all five events, with none of the top seeds claiming an All England title to make the run-up to the Olympics all the more exciting.
Turning The Tide In The Chinese Squad
The biggest shocks of the day came in the women’s events, none more so than Tian and Zhao’s demolition of the world number 1 pairing of Wang and Yu. The 21-19, 21-13 scoreline was a accurate representation of the difference, with Wang Xiaoli looking especially flustered by the occasion. Li Xuerui topped Wang Yihan in the women’s singles final as the balance of power within these events is turning towards the lower seeded players and pairings. Li Xuerui was outside the top 10 just 3 months ago but has claimed victories over the world number 4 Saina Nehwal and world number 1 this week.
Indonesia And Korea Claim Titles
The hope of a European winner this week ended in a 43-minute final that seen Ahmad and Natsir defeated the Danish pairing of Laybourn and Rytter Juhl, with the Dane’s impressive run ending at the final hurdle. Lee and Jung took an 11-10 lead in their rivalry over Cai and Fu as they topped the top seeds in three games to tip the balance back on their side just ahead of the Olympics.
A Disappointing End
Even before the match started, there were injury concerns with Lee Chong Wei and throughout the opening game there were signs that the match wasn’t going to go the distance. The Malaysian received treatment during the opening game and after losing the opener 21-19, received yet more treatment. The second game lasted all but 8 points with Lin Dan ahead 6-2 before Lee Chong Wei’s retirement through injury. It is another disappointing exit for one of the world’s great players at the All England, with Gade’s defeating on the opening night.
Three of the biggest rivalries in the game are to be renewed on the finals stage as China’s hope to claim 5 titles ends today.
Lee Takes On Lin
The top two players in the world will meet for the 28th time and the 4th time at the All Englands. Both have secured their place in the final without the loss of a game this week and Lee Chong Wei complete their route to the finals with a victory over Lee Hyun Il, whilst Lin Dan defeated Kenichi Tago to reach tomorrow’s final. Lee Chong Wei has never strung two victories together against Lin Dan, he will hope to change that after defeating Lin Dan in Korea in their previous encounter in January.
All Chinese Finals In All England
Wang Yihan takes on Li Xuerui tomorrow’s women’s singles final after the world number defeated Wang Shixian in her semi final whilst Li Xuerui beat Tai Tzu Ying in the second of the semi finals. The 7th seed does not hold a good record against the top seeded Wang Yihan in previous encounters, losing all of her previous four encounters. Wang and Yu renew their rivalry with Tian and Zhao in the women’s doubles final, with both pairs meeting little resistance on route to the final. It will be their 9th meeting with Wang and Yu winning their last 7 matches.
The 21st Encounter
Cai and Fu take on Lee and Jung for the 21st time in the All England final, with their historic rivalry tired at 10 wins apiece. Cai and Fu have won the previous two matches but this is their first meeting in the All England final, with both pairs not losing a game this week on route to tomorrow’s final with Lee and Jung being especially impressive in their victory over Boe and Mogensen in their semi final.
The mixed doubles final is the only final without Chinese interest, with Laybourn and Rytter Juhl ending the run of the 2011 champions Xu and Ma at the semi final stage in a two game victory. The 4th seeded Ahmad and Natsir will be the Danes opponent in the final after ending the run of the Malaysian pair of Chan and Goh. It will be their 3rd meeting with the Danish pair taking their most recent match in China last November.
There were no excuses of a 3am finish today, with play ending well before midnight on Day 2 with the loss of several seeds over all 5 events.
Taufik Returns To Super Series Latter Stages
Both Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan have progressed without much fuss into the quarter finals, winning their second round matches in two games. Top seeded Lee Chong Wei takes on the unseeded Rumbaka of Indonesia in his quarter final after toppling the 6th seeded Sho Sasaki in two games. Lin Dan takes on Taufik Hidayat in one of the matches of the third day, with the Indonesian defeating Chen Jin in the second round to progress to his first Super Series Premier quarter final of 2012. It will be a massive boost to the Indonesian’s rankings with the qualification period for the London Olympics ending in just over 2 months time.
Chinese Threats Loom Large
Four of the remaining eight players in the women’s singles are the Chinese seeds, with that number set to decrease by at least one going into Saturday’s semi finals. Wang Yihan takes on Tine Baun in the quarter finals in the pick of the matches but the all-Chinese match between Wang Shixian and Jiang Yanjiao has it’s own sub plot. The Chinese number 3 and 4 are battling for the last place in the Olympic team, so this match will have massive implications on who might progress to the Olympics. Li Xuerui is the only Chinese player on the bottom half of the draw and takes on Saina Nehwal in the quarter finals.
Massive Chinese Presence In Doubles
The Chinese have three pairs in the men’s doubles quarter finals, with Cai and Fu reaching their quarter final against Ahsan and Septano without the loss of a game so far this week. Lee and Jung will have to reverse their defeat against Hong and Shen to progress into the last 4, with the unseeded Chinese pair defeating Koo and Tan of Malaysia to reach the last 8. The 5th seeded Chai and Guo take on the Danish 3rd seeds Boe and Mogensen in the pick of the men’s doubles quarter finals, with the Danish pair defeating the 5th seeds last year on route to their victory at the 2011 All Englands.
Two of the newer pairings for China face off in the women’s doubles quarter final, with Ma and Zhong taking on Huan and Tang with a likely semi final against Wang and Yu looming large. Both pairings have defeated a seed to reach the last 8, with Ma and Zhong defeating Fujii and Kakiiwa in their opening round match whilst Huan and Tang defeating Chien and Cheng of Chinese Taipei, seeded 8. The top two seeds have had little trouble in reaching the quarter finals, with both pairs needing around a hour to book their places in the quarter finals.
The GB Olympic sub-plot is very much still alive this week, with Bankier and Adcock defeating the Korean pair of Yoo and Jang to reach the last 8, only to be followed soon after by their rivals Robertson and Wallwork who defeated the 5th seeded Chen and Cheng to also book their place in the quarter finals. Adcock and Bankier take on the world number 9 pairing of Chan and Goh whilst Robertson and Wallwork take on the 4th seeded Ahmad and Natsir with the reward for another victory each is a semi final match against one another. Xu and Ma are the sole Chinese pair left in the mixed doubles and they take on the Russian pair of Nikolaenko and Sorokina who have regained the form of late last year to reach the last 8. There is also an all-Danish quarter final with Laybourn and Rytter Juhl taking on Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen for a place in the last 4.
From 10am on Wednesday, all the way to Wang Xin’s entrance onto court at 2.15am local time that topped one of the longest and most dramatic days of badminton in recent memory.
Gade Crashes Out
Peter Gade walked onto court at 1.15am local time, 5 hours later than scheduled and after claiming the first, the 4th seed hoped to get off court in double quick time. Rajiv Ouseph took the second game and with it came the realisation that the end of Gade’s history at this event was coming to an end. After going 12-1 down in third, he mounted three minor comebacks before losing the deciding game 21-14.
The likes of Lee Chong Wei and Lin Dan were most likely asleep whilst play ended, with both securing a place in the second round tomorrow with routine two game victories. Kenichi Tago defeated Viktor Axelsen in two games in a match that could be repeated countless times in the next decade, with these two players highly regarded as the future of the game. Tago takes on Kazushi Yamada in an all-Japanese second round match. Taufik Hidayat takes on Chen Jin in the second round in one of the matches of the day, with both players progressing in two games today.
5 From 16 For China
Am almost full compliment of Chinese players reached the last 16 in the women’s singles, with Wang Yihan and Wang Shixian booking their places in the second round. Juliane Schenk, Tine Baun and Saina Nehwal leading the non-Chinese charge with Schenk and Nehwal needing three games to progress and the 8th seeded German finishing her game just before 2am local time.
Wang Xin was another big name casualty today, arriving on court at 2.15 local time against Sung Ji Hyun of Korea and failing to produce anything like her best in a 21-8, 21-13 defeat to the world number 12. Li Xuerui is the only Chinese player left in the bottom half of the draw, after battling back from a game down to defeat Bulgaria’s Linda Zechiri.
Bankier and Adcock Strike Again
Ko and Yoo were another big name to crash out on the opening day, with the Korean 4th seeds losing out to Fang and Lee of Chinese Taipei in two games. Lee and Jung had little trouble in reaching the second round, neither did Cai and Fu in their straight forward win over Liu and Ng of Canada. Boe and Mogensen are the main European threat this week and progressed to a second round meeting against Kido and Setiawan tomorrow. Adcock and Ellis kept local interest alive in the competition with a opening round win, but take on the 2nd seeded Lee and Jung in the second round tomorrow.
Wang and Yu made light work of Wallwork and White in their return from a 2-month hiatus, whilst their team mates Ma and Zhong surprised the 4th seeded Fujii and Kakiiwa with a three game victory. The third Chinese pair through is the unseeded pair of Huan and Tang, the German Open winners set up a second round match against Chien and Cheng of Chinese Taipei after their three game victory in the opening round. The fourth Chinese pair are the 2nd seeded Tian and Zhao, who defeated Chin and Wong of Malaysia to reach the second round.
Adcock and Bankier defeated Zhang and Zhao for the second time this year to reverse the result of the 2011 world championship final. A stunning three game victory sees them topple the world number 1 pairing in both Super Series Premier events this year and set up a second round clash with Yoo and Jang of Korea. Lee and Ha were another seeded pair to crash out today, with the 7th seeds losing out to Sato and Matsuo of Japan in two games. Ma and Xu cruised into the second round as one of only two Chinese pairs left in the draw, with He and Yixin defeating Fuchs and Michels of Germany to also reach the last 16. Robertson and Wallwork are also into the last 16, where they will take on the 5th seeded Chen and Cheng of Chinese Taipei as they battle with Adcock and Bankier for the GB spot at the 2012 Olympics.
The world’s elite descend on Birmingham for the last Premier event of the Olympic qualifying year and also the last visit for some of the world’s greatest players set to retire in London in less than 6 months time.
Gade’s Last Run
Gade confirmed on Sunday evening that this would be his last All England as a player. The 4th seed starts with a first round match against his opponent at the 2011 World Championships, England’s Rajiv Ouseph. Gade has won the previous 7 encounters against Ouseph, all in two games. Top seed Lee Chong Wei is also in Gade’s half of the draw, taking on the dangerous Wang Zhengming in his opening round match but the world number 1 has won all four of their matches in two games also.
Lin Dan enters the tournament as the form player with his fantastic run in Germany last week, he takes on India’s Ajay Jayaram in his opening round match for their first meeting. The bottom half of the draw is loaded with Chinese threats with Chen Jin and Chen Long all likely to make deep runs this week. Taufik Hidayat has dropped to 12th in the world rankings and has been displaced as Indonesia’s #1 player by Simon Santoso. His status as Indonesia’s number 2 should remain unless Tommy Sugiarto defeats Chen Jin in his opening round match, with Hidayat taking on Guatemala’s Kevin Cordon in the first round.
Chinese Strength On Show
China have only brought a mere 6 players for the women’s singles, with all of them ranked inside the top 10 in the world. Liu Xin is the only unseeded of the six and takes on Michelle Li of Canada before a likely second round match against top seeded Wang Yihan.
Should the Chinese team allow their players to play one another, this could be a fascinating week of play with six players attempting to qualify for potentially three spots in the Olympics. Wang Xin and Wang Shixian hold the other two qualifying places and both have tough openers. Wang Xin takes on the world number 12 Sung Ji Hyun of Korea whilst Wang Shixian takes on the world number 10 and world silver medalist
Cheng Shao Chieh.
Tine Baun and Juliane Schenk lead the European charge, with Baun taking on Fu Mingtian of Singapore in her opening round match whilst Juliane Schenk takes on the world number 13 Bae Youn Joo in her opening round match. The sub-plots begin on Tuesday when qualifying takes place with Susan Egelstaff and Elizabeth Cann fighting for the GB spot at the Olympics, both have been in poor runs of form but could play each other in the final qualifying round on Tuesday night in what could be a decider for the Olympic spot.
China The Nation To Beat
China hold the top seed in all three doubles events, with Cai and Fu on route to take on Lee and Jung for their 21st encounter. Last week’s winners Hong and Shen are in Lee and Jung’s half of the draw also as well as Boe and Mogensen of Denmark. Cai and Fu’s main threat in their half in the Korean pair of Ko and Yoo, their world championship opponents.
Wang and Yu have been off the radar for almost 2 months after their stunning loss to Ha and Kim in Korea, they still remain the top seeds in the women’s doubles and will face a qualifier in their opening round. Their main rivals Tian and Zhao start with Chin and Wong of Malaysia, the world number 14 pairing. Ha and Kim are the 3rd seeds this week and are in the bottom half of the draw and have a rematch of their opening round in Germany last week against Sari and Yao of Singapore who defeated them in three games.
The mixed doubles offers another Zhang and Zhao against Adcock and Bankier rematch in the first round, after meeting in the first round in Korea with the British pair coming up on top. Adcock and Bankier are also in a tight qualification fight against Robertson and Wallwork who take on the world number 11 Thai pairing of Anugritayawon and Voravichitchaikul in the opening round. Xu and Ma are the second seeds this week and start with under the circumstances an “easy” game against the world number 31 pairing of Kim and Jung of Korea. The Danish contingent could face off in the quarter final, but the 3rd seeded Fischer Neilsen and Pedersen take on the new Chinese partnership of Jiaming and Huan. Last week’s German Open winners Laybourn and Rytter Juhl await a qualifier in their opening round.
The European interest ended on semi finals day, but that was not the biggest shock of the day. Wang and Yu’s stunning run came to an end at the hands of Ha and Kim in the women’s doubles as two Koreans have a chance of two titles in Seoul.
First Meeting Of 2012
The two best players in the world meet for the first time this year, with the momentum with Lin Dan with victories in their previous three matchups. Lee Chong Wei has reached the final with the loss of a single game on route. It is their 27th meeting and the perfect start to the Olympic year.
Jiang Yanjiao claimed a famous win over Wang Yihan to boost her Olympic aspirations, her opponent in the final will be Wang Shixian and a victory over the world number 3 would improve her chances of making the Chinese squad even more. The world number 6 also holds a 4-3 head to head record over her team-mate.
China Against Korea In Doubles
Three Chinese pairs will take on three Korean pairs in the doubles finals. Cai and Fu take on Lee and Jung in the men’s doubles final for their 20th meeting in their rivalry, with Lee Yong Dae hoping to claim a 6th Korean Open title. His second chance comes in the mixed doubles as he teams up with Ha Jung Eun to take on the Chinese pairing of Xu and Ma. Ha Jung Eun claimed the biggest upset of the week as her and partner Kim Min Jung stunned the world number pairing of Wang and Yu in the women’s doubles semi finals to set up a match against Tian and Zhao and become the first non-Chinese pair to beat the world number 1 pairing.