Badminton: Denmark upset Malaysia to enter Thomas Cup final

Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia celebrates his victory against Viktor Axelsen of Denmark during their men's singles semi finals match.
Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia celebrates his victory against Viktor Axelsen of Denmark during their men's singles semi finals match.PHOTO: AFP

KUNSHAN, China (AFP) - Denmark beat Malaysia in a thrilling 3-2 semi-final at the Thomas Cup late on Friday to inch closer to winning their first world badminton team championship.

Denmark's Hans-Kristian Vittinghus reversed the tide midstream in a dramatic comeback against the talent-rich Malaysians after the Danes dropped the two first matches of the semi-final in the eastern Chinese city of Kunshan.

World number two Lee Chong Wei put his teammates on the winning path after grinding down reigning European champion Viktor Axelsen in a 23-21, 21-18 win.

Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong maintained the lead with an exhausting pace against Mathias Boe and Mads Conrad-Petersen with leaping overhead smashes in their 21-18, 21-18 win.

Down two points, Vittinghus wrestled back momentum from the Malaysians by remaining patient during lengthy rallies with Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin, whittling away his opponent's stamina for the 21-18, 21-18 comeback.

"I stayed calm and stuck to my game plan - that's a lot easier said than done," Vittinghus said after the match.

With the Chinese fans firmly behind them, Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen kept the Danes in the tournament with a 10-21, 21-8, 21-13 win over Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong.

In the dramatic fifth match of the tie, Emil Holst clinched the Danes' final berth with a 21-15, 21-18 win over Chong Wei Feng, bringing his teammates rushing onto the court.

Denmark are set to face Indonesia on Sunday in the Thomas Cup final.

On the women's side, South Korea booked their tickets to the Uber Cup final after pushing past Japan with a 3-1 win, setting up a showdown with powerhouse China on Saturday afternoon.

Seventh-ranked Sung Ji-Hyun established South Korea's early dominance, controlling the pace of the match against fifth ranked Nozomi Okuhara in a 21-13, 21-12 win hammered out with finesse.

The South Koreans kept up the pressure in doubles as the duo of Jung Kyung-Eun and Shin Seung-Chan bested top-ranked Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi in a three-match 21-19, 15-21, 21-16 tussle.

But things took for a tragic turn for South Korea when Bae Yeon-Ju collapsed on court due to an ankle injury, giving Akane Yamaguchi the victory via forfeit.

The misfortune proved short-lived with Chang Ye-Na and Lee So-Hee storming back to beat Japan's Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao 21-15, 21-14, setting up the showdown with China.

"The Chinese women's team are the best in the world... we will do our best to beat them," said Lee.

In earlier semi-final action, Indonesia beat South Korea 3-1 to reach the Thomas Cup final and raise hopes of their first victory in 14 years in a competition they once dominated.

Indonesia, who have won the men's team tournament a record 13 times, proved too strong for South Korea, after they stunned hosts China a day earlier.

Son Wan-Ho, who beat world number one Chen Long in a pulsating quarter-final, glided past Indonesia's Jonatan Christie 21-10, 21-16 to put South Korea ahead.

But Indonesia rallied in the following match, with Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan securing a 21-15, 21-12 win over Lee Yong-Dae and Yoo Yeon-Seong.

Anthony Ginting put South Korea on the brink with a 21-18, 21-18 victory over Lee Dong-Keun before doubles pair Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi beat Kim Gi-Jung and Kim Sa-Rang 21-15, 21-18.

"We have good doubles and good singles, so why not?" said Ginting, when asked if Indonesia had a chance of winning the final.

In the women's Uber Cup competition, Olympic champion Li Xuerui led China into the final as she won a hard-fought three-gamer against India's Saina Nehwal.

The world number three struggled to her find her groove but eventually established a rhythm, prevailing 21-15, 12-21, 21-17 against the 2012 Olympic bronze medallist.

Wang Shixian snuffed out a late, second-game surge from India's Pusarla V. Sindhu to win 21-13, 23-21 before doubles duo Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei clinched the tie 21-6, 21-6 against Jwala Gutta and Nelakurihi Sikki Reddy.