Badminton: Malaysia's Lee into Thomas Cup quarter-finals

Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia hits a return to Kai Schaefer of Germany during their men's singles group match in the Thomas Cup badminton tournament in Kunshan, eastern China's Jiangsu Province on May 16.
Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia hits a return to Kai Schaefer of Germany during their men's singles group match in the Thomas Cup badminton tournament in Kunshan, eastern China's Jiangsu Province on May 16.PHOTO: AFP

KUNSHAN (AFP) - Lee Chong Wei came through an unexpectedly tight first game against German unknown Kai Schaefer before Malaysia reached the Thomas Cup quarter-finals with a 5-0 whitewash on Monday.

The 33-year-old, who will target his maiden Olympic title in Rio in August, was matched nearly blow for blow in the opening game before winning 21-19, 21-15 on day two in Kunshan, China.

Lee's teammates had an easier time with Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin beating Lars Schaenzle 21-7, 21-16, while doubles team Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong dispensed with their opponents in just 26 minutes.

The Thomas Cup is seen as a vital tune-up for Lee, who is preparing for what looks like his final realistic chance of Olympic gold after losing the last two finals to China's Lin Dan.

With wins over England and now Germany, 2014 Thomas Cup runners-up Malaysia are already into the quarter-finals ahead of their toughest Group C tie against South Korea.

In earlier play, second seeds Denmark demolished South Africa 5-0 in their first match of the tournament.

European champion Viktor Axelsen rolled through Jacob Maliekal 21-14, 21-11, while world number five Jan O Jorgensen thrashed Cameron Coetzer 21-9, 21-9 as the Danes seek to grab their first Thomas Cup crown.

Later on Monday evening, the Chinese men continued their dominance on home soil, trouncing France 5-0.

But badminton star Lin struggled to find his rhythm during his first match of the tournament, losing the first game to France's Lucas Corvee, before storming back to win the match 20-22, 21-14, 21-8.

World number one Chen Long assisted his team's sweep with a commanding 21-9, 21-12 win that pushed the squad into the quarters.

In the women's Uber Cup, Thailand routed Bulgaria 5-0, making a commanding statement before squaring off with Indonesia in their final match in group play on Tuesday.

Thai starlet Ratchanok Intanon stumbled early in her match against Bulgaria's Linda Zetchiri after dropping the first game. But the world number two found her groove, rebounding with a 17-21, 21-14, 21-15 victory.

Both competitions feature 16 teams divided into four groups, with the top two in each qualifying for the quarter-finals.