PV Sindhu, Saina Nehwal lead India to finals of Uber Cup

NEW DELHI, May 23, 2014: Badminton powerhouse China led a parade of top nations into the semi-finals of the men’s Thomas Cup and the women’s Uber Cup team championships in New Delhi on Thursday.

World champion Lin Dan was not even required to play the fifth match as the Chinese men, seeking a record sixth consecutive title, flattened Thailand 3-0 in the day’s first quarter-final.

China’s next opponent will be 2012 semi-finalist Japan, who survived a shock defeat for world number four Kenichi Tago to end new entrant France’s dreams in the 16-nation event.

Tago was taken out by the 31st ranked Brice Leverdez in the opening singles, with the Frenchman winning 21-14, 15-21, 21-16 in an hour and six minutes.

But France’s hopes of making the semi-finals in their maiden Thomas Cup appearance were dashed as the Japanese breezed through the next three matches without dropping a game.

“I am happy, for myself and the whole team,” Leverdez, a 27-year-old from Paris, told AFP. “It is always satisfying to beat a top player, so of course I am very happy.

“But I am also proud of the way our young team has responded. We have done well in our first Thomas Cup. We showed we belong here.”

The second men’s semi-final will feature Malaysia against former champions Indonesia, who ousted 2012 runners-up South Korea 3-2 in a late night thriller.

The Indonesians led 2-1 before doubles specialists Kim Ki-Jung and Kim Sa-Rang drew level for the Koreans by winning the fourth match against Ryan Saputra and Angga Pratama.

The 34th-ranked Simon Santoso won the decider against Hwang Jong-Soo 21-12, 22-20 to keep the 13-time champions in the hunt for their first title since 2002.

Malaysia, who won the last of their five Thomas Cup titles in 1992, beat Denmark 3-1 after world number one Lee Chong Wei gave them the lead with a three-game win over the third-ranked Jan O Jorgensen.

Denmark drew level by winning the first doubles, before Chong Wei Feng took the second singles and Goh Shem and Tan Wee Kiong sealed Malaysia’s win through the second doubles.

The Chinese women, whose 12 Uber Cup titles include seven in the last eight editions, proved too strong for unfancied England during a 3-0 win.

China’s semi-final opponents will be old foes South Korea, who defeated teenage world champion Ratchanok Intanon’s Thailand 3-1.

The Koreans, who halted China’s winning sequence in 2010 before losing to them in the final two years ago, saw their top player Sung Ji-Hyun beaten by Intanon in straight games.

That was Thailand’s only point in the tie as the Koreans won both the doubles and the second singles to set up an intriguing semi-final against the defending champions.

In the other women’s semi-final, Japan will clash with hosts India, who stunned Indonesia 3-0 to make the last four in the Uber Cup for the first time.

Saina Nehwal gave India the lead with a 21-17, 21-10 win over Lindaweni Fanetri, before P.V. Sindhu beat Bellaetrix Manuputty in a three-game marathon which ended at 25-23 in the decider.

Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa took the doubles to clinch the tie amidst drum-beating celebrations from some 1,000 Indian fans.

“Before the tournament started, we had aimed to make the semi-finals and we have done it,” said world number eight Nehwal. “Japan will obviously be tough, but we too have the confidence to do well.”

Japan outclassed Denmark 3-0, with Minatsu Mitani and Sayaka Takahashi winning their singles matches in between a doubles success for Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi.