China Coast into Semis – Sudirman Cup ’19

Thursday, May 23, 2019
TEXT BY GAYLE ALLEYNE | BADMINTONPHOTO

China bore down on the business end of the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019 tonight, with its young brigade brushing aside the best of Denmark.

Viktor Axelsen of Denmark beat Chen Long.

Playing on home turf in Nanning, they cut a decisive path to Saturday’s semifinals, winning mixed doubles, men’s doubles and finally women’s singles with Chen Yufei resisting a valiant effort by Mia Blichfeldt. The result earned the powerhouse nation a date with Thailand; a place in Sunday’s showpiece finale at stake.

Tonight’s 3-1 quarterfinal victory was only delayed by Viktor Axelsen’s impressive win over a somewhat lacklustre Chen Long who struggled to keep pace with the Danish top gun in their hour-long match. Axelsen put the Olympic champion out of his misery, 21-11 21-18, on an evening that otherwise belonged to the rampant hosts.

The tie opened with mixed doubles as world No.1 duo, Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong, opposed Mathias Christiansen and Sara Thygesen. The latter surprised their rivals by snatching the first game. However, the Chinese juggernaut quickly righted itself and the world champions scythed through the next two games with the clinical precision that’s made them almost unbeatable. In a flash, they had given China a 1-0 advantage overall, prevailing 19-21 21-11 21-13.

“After losing the first game, we realised that our opponents were not giving us too much problems,” said Zheng. “We changed our game plan and that made the match easier.”

In men’s doubles, Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen refused to let Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen get a grip on the match, eventually taking the honours 21-18 21-16 in 54 minutes. They were followed on court by Chen Yufei who also made no mistake in her assignment, beating Blichfeldt 21-16 21-17. In both matches, any hint of danger was snuffed out decisively with the Chinese raising their level at just the right time and focusing on keeping the shuttle in rather than attempting unnecessarily risky shots.

Quote of the Session

“I was upset when we lost the Sudirman Cup two years ago but today I was excited to win the decisive point for my team.

“We are a big team. We encourage each other and we fight together. My teammates trusted me to win the match,” said Chen, adding that she has matured and is more consistent since the last Sudirman Cup.

Looking ahead to clashing with Thailand in the semifinals, she noted the opposition is very strong and may pose a major threat to China.

“They are good in all the categories, especially women’s doubles, women’s singles and mixed doubles.

“If I face Ratchanok Intanon in the semifinals, it will be challenging. I will have to stay calm and play patiently and carefully.”

Chen Yufei sealed China’s quarterfinal victory.