Thomas and Uber Cup: Star-studded China teams face tough test against dark-horse Thailand and Indonesia in semi-finals
China's star shuttlers will be tested by Thailand's dark-horse women's team and Indonesia's men in the last four of the Uber and Thomas Cups, with Japan also grabbing spots in both semi-finals after a dramatic knockout stage
Bangkok: China's star shuttlers will be tested by Thailand's dark-horse women's team and Indonesia's men in the last four of the Uber and Thomas Cups, with Japan also grabbing spots in both semi-finals after a dramatic knockout stage on Thursday.
The prestigious biennial event has brought together 16 top teams from five continents for a week of intense competition in Bangkok for the men's Thomas Cup and the Uber Cup which is contested by the women.
The day's most exhilarating moment came when Thailand's women edged into the final four, with Busanan Ongbamrungphan sparking jubilation among the home crowd by winning the final women's singles 9-21, 12-21 to seal a 3-2 win against Indonesia.
Thailand's star player, world number four Ratchanok Intanon, started the tie well for the home side, demolishing Indonesia's Fitriani Fitriani in the first game.
But the visitors won the next two points, before a Thai doubles pair matched their score and Busanan finally broke the draw, sending her team rushing onto the court to embrace each other and dance before an ecstatic crowd.
"I am really happy that I can make one point for my team," 22-year-old Busanan said after the match, adding that the crowd's energetic cheering helped "a lot".
Busanan conceded that taking on China – reigning champions who have won the Uber cup 14 times – will be "very tough".
"But I think everyone in my team can do it. I will try my best," she added.
In Thomas Cup action, China's star-stacked men secured their final-four spot early in the day with a 3-0 wipeout of Taiwan.
The only stumble came when world number five Chen Long dropped one game against Taiwan's Chou Tien-chen, though he bounced back to finish the job 21-18, 10-21, 21-14.
A tense match to determine who would face top-seeds China then followed between arch-rivals Malaysia and Indonesia – who were runners-up in the last 2016 Thomas Cup.
Malaysia's veteran player Lee Chong Wei stole the first point 21-19, 21-16 from Anthony Sinisuka Ginting.
But Indonesia's Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo – the world's number one doubles pair – put their country back on track with a 21-19, 20-22, 21-13 win against Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong.
Eying a shot at both trophies, Japan rolled into the semi-finals after its top-seeded women overcame an early scare from Taiwan and the men outclassed France 3-1.
The women clawed back a win following the first match 21-19, 21-16 defeat of world number two Akane Yamaguchi by Taiwan's Tai Tzu Ying, who ranks higher than her.
They rebounded with doubles pair Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota tearing through their rivals in the next match, followed by a routine 21-11, 21-12 win by singles world champion Nozomi Okuhara.
The women will face South Korea on Friday while the men will have a rougher ride against Denmark – whose team made history in 2016 by becoming the first non-Asian country to take home the Thomas trophy.
The Danes took down Korea 3-0 on Thursday to continue their run at retaining the title.
World number one Viktor Axelsen, who had lost a match the night before to Malaysia's Lee, regained his rhythm on Thursday to beat Korea's Son Wan-ho, who is one rank below him, 21-14, 14-21, 22-20.
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Sindhu had earlier pulled out of the Thomas and Uber Cup Final but later decided to participate in it, although the event itself eventually got deferred due to the rising number of pullouts.
The camp was originally scheduled to start on 7 September and conclude on 27 September for the event set to be held from 3 to 11 October in Aarhus, Denmark.
Cancelling the 3-11 October event would be a major blow to badminton's restart, as it was the biggest event left on the calendar this year after the Olympics were postponed.