KUNSHAN (China) • Hours after China suffered their earliest Thomas Cup exit since their debut in 1982, their women's team eased some of the pain by progressing into the Uber Cup final.
World No. 3 Li Xuerui led China to a 3-0 victory over India yesterday, defeating Olympic bronze medallist Saina Nehwal 21-15, 12-21, 21-17.
Wang Shixian doubled the reigning champions' advantage after seeing off P.V. Sindhu 21-13, 23-21.
Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei then finished the tie off with a 21-6, 21-6 rout of Jwala Gutta and Sikki Reddy Nelakurihi.
China will face either 2010 champions South Korea or Japan in today's final. They will seek to salvage some Chinese pride and take the pressure off chief coach Li Yongbo, who was urged to step down by angry fans after the shock Thomas Cup exit threw their Olympic preparations into chaos.
Spectators hissed and shouted "Li Yongbo quit!" as China lost 1-3 to South Korea in the quarter-finals late on Thursday. One weeping and hysterical fan had to be escorted out by security as world No. 1 Chen Long and two doubles pairs flopped at the team championships.
The result does not augur well for China's Olympic campaign in Rio de Janeiro, four years after they became the first country to win all five gold medals in London.
China, led by Li, have dominated badminton for the past decade but unease is growing that the golden age may be coming to an end.
Chinese great Lin Dan won his match against Lee Dong Keun but it has not been a convincing tournament for the Olympic champion, who earlier dropped a game against French unknown Lucas Corvee.
Chen admitted he suffered an attack of nerves in his 87-minute scrap with South Korea's Son Wan Ho, which ended 12-21, 21-16, 15-21.
Chen, who was also taken to three games by Japan's Sho Sasaki in the group phase, said he needed to relax as the Olympics approach.
"For me, if I attack two or three times but didn't get the point, then I would get nervous," said the world No. 1. "But when (Son) attacked two or three times and didn't get the point, he would attack the fourth time. I should play more quickly, more attacking... but I didn't do well because I think too much."
Korea, however, failed to build on their first victory over China in the Thomas Cup, losing 1-3 to Indonesia in the semi-finals yesterday.
Son glided past Jonatan Christie 21-10, 21-16 to put Korea ahead. But Indonesia, who have won the men's team tournament a record 13 times, 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 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.
Indonesia will contest their first Thomas Cup final since 2010 against either Malaysia or Denmark. The Korea-Japan and Malaysia-Denmark semi-final results were not available at press time.
UBER CUP FINAL
StarHub Ch201, 1pm