Badminton: China and Japan cruise ominously into knockout phase of Thomas and Uber Cups

Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in action against Hsuan-Yu Wendy Chen of Australia during their Uber Cup Group A badminton match at the Thomas and Uber Cup 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 20, 2018.
Akane Yamaguchi of Japan in action against Hsuan-Yu Wendy Chen of Australia during their Uber Cup Group A badminton match at the Thomas and Uber Cup 2018 in Bangkok, Thailand, on May 20, 2018.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

BANGKOK (AFP) - China and Japan breezed into the quarter-finals of the Thomas and Uber Cup competitions with unblemished records on Wednesday (May 23), making their case as the main rivals for the men's and women's badminton tournaments.

Desperate to regain the Thomas Cup, China's men have taken every point from their opponents, with Olympic star Chen Long leading from the front with three wins, helping his country to 5-0 wipeouts of Australia, France and India.

The women's side, defending champions who have conceded only one Uber Cup since 1998, edged out Indonesia 3-2 to keep their clean record into the knockout rounds.

But glory is not guaranteed for the squad this year, with Olympic champion Li Xuerui yet to find her form after returning from a lengthy injury layoff.

She lost to Indonesia's Ruselli Hartawan 15-21, 21-19, 21-18 on Wednesday.

"I'm just getting acclimatised to the courts," she said of her loss, according to a Badminton World Federation press statement.

"China had already won the tie so maybe I didn't feel the urgency. I would have done better if it was a deciding match."

Top seeds Japan are in menacing form, swatting away India 5-0 with stars Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara once again doing the business in the singles, with Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi securing the points in the doubles.

The men are also in fine form, overpowering Chinese Taipei 5-0 after two 4-1 victories earlier in the week over Hong Kong and Germany.

But Thomas Cup reigning champions Denmark will have their unblemished record tested by Malaysia later on Wednesday in a tie that will decide who tops Group D.

World No. 1 Viktor Axelsen, who has spent just 41 minutes to see off his rivals so far, lasted two minutes longer than that in his 21-9, 21-19 loss to Malaysia's veteran star shuttler Lee Chong Wei, as the five-time champions.

Thailand's women have so far delighted the home crowd, battering both Germany, Hong Kong in their first two ties as they aim to be seeded in the draw for the quarters by overcoming Chinese Taipei.