Thursday, May 24, 2018
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
China and Korea recovered from the shock of opening match losses against Denmark and Canada to enter the Uber Cup semi-finals at the TOTAL BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals 2018 today.
Mia Blichfeldt (featured image) led Denmark into battle against China. Taking on Chen Yufei, Blichfeldt showed no sign of being intimidated. In fact, it was Chen who appeared weighed down by the occasion; there was just that hint of sluggishness in her movements which Blichfeldt pounced upon. Chen quickly fell apart in the third – 21-18 13-21 21-12 – raising the prospect of a massive upset for the 14-times Uber Cup champions.
“It was a tough match, I played very well,” said Blichfeldt. “I found the right tempo and moved quite fast. Of course there is another kind of spirit when you play for the team. I kept the pressure up and I enjoy team matches. I found the lines and controlled the shuttle better in the drift, especially from the net. I’m a very emotional player and I’m a bad loser, so it’s nice to be a winner today.”
A short while earlier, Canada’s Michelle Li had achieved the same effect for Canada against Korea, easing past Sung Ji Hyun 21-14 21-15.
“I played a lot better today than I did through the week, so I’m very happy,” said Li. “It was nice to get a point and show everyone that Canada can make the quarter-finals and beat the top countries. It was important that we put our best out there. It was about being ready for the drift, today I was able to handle that quite well. It was important to get a good start and play with confidence, as the rest of the team is new to this environment.”
Gao Fangjie strode in under pressure, but unlike Chen, never faltered. The tall Chinese stepped on the gas from the first point against Line Kjaersfeldt, and her steep slices and sharp smashes caused no end of problems for the Dane, whose challenge fell apart in 39 minutes: 21-11 21-11.
World champions Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan were just as dominant in the doubles, over Sara Thygesen/Maiken Fruergaard, and they completed victory in 34 minutes: 21-10 21-13.
Li Xuerui had faltered in her previous group match against Indonesia’s Ruselli Hartawan, but today the former Olympic champion was a picture of assurance against Denmark’s Natalia Koch Rohde. To make matters worse for the Dane, she misjudged several shuttles in the deep, and Li was never in any danger as she closed it out: 21-7 21-9.
“I was definitely better prepared today compared to yesterday’s group stage,” said Li Xuerui. “As for big match experience, I’m definitely superior in this department. There is a bit difference in our ability, so that’s why I was more relaxed.”
Talking about her comeback, Li said she was looking ahead to the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. “I want to continue to play badminton, my goal is the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. I took a break of more than a year and a half, I was fully prepared before I made my comeback.”
Meanwhile, Korea were having a harder time dispelling Canada. Lee Jang Mi had her hands full in quelling Rachel Honderich’s determined fightback, needing an hour to emerge victorious at 21-13 19-21 21-15.
Korea quickly made it 2-1 with the two 18-year-olds, Baek Ha Na and Lee Yu Rim, decimating Michelle Tong/Catherine Choi 21-10 21-7.
An Se Young, Korea’s saviour in their group tie against Denmark, was up against Brittney Tam. The Canadian silenced the Korean camp by taking a close second game, but An asserted her superiority in the third and did a funny little jig on converting match point: 21-13 19-21 21-11.
“I told coach Kim (Ji Hyun) that I would dance on court if I won,” said the 16-year-old schoolgirl, explaining her reaction on winning the match.