Wednesday, May 23, 2018
TEXT BY GAYLE ALLEYNE | BADMINTONPHOTO
Denmark and Thailand kept their seeded positions and tonight gained a psychological advantage ahead of the knockout stage of the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup respectively, qualifying top of their groups in the round-robin phase of the TOTAL BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals 2018.
Still battling to return to his best after a long injury lay-off, Men’s Singles veteran Jan Jorgensen (featured image) gave an inspired performance versus Malaysia’s Iskandar Zulkarnain in the last match of the Group D tie to snatch an important 16-21 21-17 21-14 victory for Denmark. The 30-year-old’s gritty comeback sealed a 3-2 success for the title-holders who twice had to claw back from deficits of 0-1 and 1-2.
“It was really important that I won this match. I’m still trying to get back to top form. It’s still in progress,” said Jorgensen, the former world No.2.
“I think this is another step in getting back to where I was a year ago.”
Earlier, Lee Chong Wei savoured his first triumph over world No.1 Viktor Axelsen in their last four clashes. Though a somewhat sluggish Axelsen led and had his chances to take the second game, his Malaysian rival fought back and reaped the reward for not giving up on a straight-games result which he duly achieved (21-9 21-19).
“I am surprised to win in two games. I planned to attack from the start and I am happy to beat the world No.1. It’s a great boost of confidence in this team event,” declared Lee as Axelsen rued his lacklustre outing against his “aggressive” opponent.
That point set Malaysia on their way but Denmark struck a blow immediately as the reliable combination of Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding beat Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong (22-24 21-15 21-15) in 80 minutes to lock the scores 1-1. Malaysia put their nose in front again thanks to Lee Zii Jai’s 21-18 21-18 versus Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus, with the latter bewildered about his meltdown from 16-6 up just as fans began to anticipate a third game. It was then the turn of Mathias Boe/Mathias Christiansen to rescue Denmark in the second Men’s Doubles, bouncing back against Aaron Chia/Teo Ee Yi (19-21 21-10 21-18) to even the tie 2-2 before Jorgensen provided the final heroics for the European champions.
In the Uber Cup, Thailand rebounded smartly from the initial setback of Ratchanok Intanon falling to arch-rival Tai Tzu Ying. The hosts won the next three matches to claim top honours in Group B, leaving Chinese Taipei to qualify for the quarter-finals in second spot.
Thailand’s improving strength in Women’s Doubles was again to the fore. Jongkolphan Kititharakul/Rawinda Prajongjai dismissed the challenge of Hu Ling Fang/Wu Ti Jung (21-8 21-10) while their team-mates – Puttita Supajirakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai – followed suit versus Chen Hsiao Huan/Hsu Ya Ching, 21-14 21-15. Sandwiched between these victories was Thailand’s second point, compliments of a dogged fightback by Nitchaon Jindapol. The No.2 Women’s Singles player blossomed from a slow start against Pai Yu Po to seize control of their match and canter away 11-21 21-19 21-11 – punching the air as she pummelled her way into the ascendancy as the crowd cheered loudly.
There was a consolation win for Chiang Mei Hui over Pornpawee Chochuwong (21-19 23-21) in the third singles to make the overall result 3-2 in Thailand’s favour.
“We are happy to win our group. Maybe we will play an easier team in the quarter-final,” said Supajirakul ahead of the knockout draw which took place later in the night.
That saw the hosts Thailand drawn against Indonesia while defending champions, China, tackle Denmark. Top seeds, Japan, face Chinese Taipei and Korea battle Canada in the other two quarter-finals.
In the Thomas Cup, top seeds China will take on Chinese Taipei; Denmark opposes Korea; Japan clashes with France; and perennial rivals Indonesia and Malaysia will fight it out once more.