Badminton: Top-ranked Lee first to reach semis at Superseries Finals

KUALA LUMPUR (AFP) - World No.1 Lee Chong Wei was the first shuttler to march into the men's singles semi-finals of the season-ending Badminton World Federation World Superseries Finals, after thrashing Thailand's Boonsak Ponsana on Thursday.

The Malaysian ace booked his place in the final four after a swift 21-6, 21-8 victory in 29 minutes, bringing him a step closer to a historic fourth title.

It was his second straight victory in the round-robin group stage following his 21-10, 21-18 win over China's Wang Zhengming on Wednesday.

"I'm glad to have won quite comfortably today. I prepared myself well and I now get to shift my focus to tomorrow's match," said Lee, who was exceptionally deadly with his smashes and drop shots against Boonsak.

The three-time champion, who faces Jan Jorgensen on Friday in his final Group A match, said the Dane's confidence will be sky high after winning the French Open.

"Jorgensen is an attacking player, so I must be strong in my defence. I must not underestimate my opponent," said the 31-year-old Malaysian.

It was a fruitful day for the Japanese squad, as second-seeded Kenichi Tago edged another step closer to the semi-finals after beating Indonesia's Sony Dwi Kuncoro 12-21, 21-19, 21-17 in Group B.

Men's pair Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa also scored an upset win over three-time champions Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen of Denmark 21-18, 21-15.

Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takashi then beat Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth and Rizki Amelia Pradipta of Indonesia 21-11, 18-21, 21-15 in a Group A women's doubles tie.

The only bad news for Japan was that their second men's pair, Hirokatsu Hashimoto and Noriyasu Hirata, had to pull out of the tournament after the latter suffered a leg injury.

The US$500,000 (S$626,000) showcase event brings together the top eight performers in each of the five categories based on points earned from the 12 Superseries tournaments.

The top two from groups A and B will play in crossover semi-finals on Saturday, with the finals on Sunday.