Wednesday, May 23, 2018
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Canada entered the Uber Cup quarter-finals for the first time with a 4-1 result over Australia in their final group tie at the TOTAL BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals 2018 today.
A defeat for Canada would’ve meant a countback between three teams – Canada, Australia and India – for the second position in Group A. As it turned out, Australia did trouble Canada but did not have the sufficient personnel to complete an upset. The result was Canada’s first quarter-final appearance in the current Uber Cup format of group stage followed by knock-out.
Wendy Chen, ranked No.80, had a fine game against Michelle Li in the opening singles, making light of the difference in ranking to trouble the No.14 Canadian. Chen matched Li shot for shot and edged ahead at 18-17, but Li stayed steady at the death to pluck out a 19-21 21-16 21-19 victory.
“I was nervous at the end, I always do that,” mused Wendy Chen. “I’d played her at the Sudirman Cup and it was a close match at the end. It was closer today. I had quite a few opportunities. I really tried hard to push my team to a win. I have to learn to focus throughout the match.”
Rachel Honderich took just 26 minutes against Jennifer Tam to put Canada 2-0 ahead. Australia fought back through Gronya Somerville/Renuga Veeran, who kept their team in the contest beating Michelle Tong/Josephine Wu 21-18 21-16.
Brittney Tam (featured image) stepped in and blitzed Lauren Lim in just 20 minutes, 21-9 21-5, to see Canada through to their first Uber Cup quarter-finals.
“This is the first time Canada are in the quarter-finals, so I’m really excited to see who we’re playing. I’d played her (Lauren Lim) last year and I beat her comfortably, so I felt confident going into the match. However, this is a big event, so I was a bit nervous,” said Tam.
“Going in to the tournament, we knew playing India would be a tough one, but because their top players didn’t come, we had a good chance. Japan was obviously tough, so it was down to this match against Australia. It’s a big result because Canada haven’t been one of the top countries in badminton. It’s good to have made our mark at this tournament.”
Japan completed their group ties with a 5-0 result over India. The Indians, barring Saina Nehwal in the opening singles, were no match for the Japanese and went down in quick time.
Nehwal was her attacking best against Akane Yamaguchi and had the match nearly sewn up with four match points. A few imprecise shots derailed her rhythm, and it was Yamaguchi rather than Nehwal who was celebrating at the end: 21-19 9-21 22-20.
“The last four points went by so quickly,” said a surprised Nehwal. “It happens with someone of that level. I don’t know what happened. All my shots went out. It’s hard to believe. It was a close match, in the last few meetings she beat me comfortably. This match shows I’ve improved, and I will get better from here on. She kept her nerve and kept going. I could’ve been more patient at the end, I have to learn to be more careful when I have the lead and not mess around like this. It was totally my fault today.”
Meanwhile, Indonesia’s men emerged on top of Group B, beating Korea in an exciting contest 3-2. Thailand had it easy over Canada, 5-0, to finish third.
All five matches in the Indonesia-Korea tie were keenly fought. Son Wan Ho pulled up from behind in both games to quell Anthony Ginting (22-20 22-20) in the first singles; Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo made it 1-1 over Chung Eui Seok/Kim Won Ho, 21-11 14-21 21-10.
Heo Kwang Hee put Korea ahead once again, beating Jonatan Christie 21-17 21-19. Indonesia turned to experienced duo Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan, who navigated testy times but came through against Choi Solgyu/Kim Dukyoung in three games.
It was finally a shootout between two young prospects – Abdul Firman Kholik and Ha Young Woong – that decided the tie.
Firman blew a 20-12 lead in the opening game, but recovered well to take the match in three: 20-22 21-15 21-12.