|12 June 2007|
By Raphael Sachetat. Pix by Badmintonphoto.com
Malaysia's hopes to shine on day one of the Sudirman Cup vanished when England beat them in a thrilling match 3-2 after saving two "tie" points.Indonesia was the other big loser of the day as Taufik Hidayat and his teammates lost 2-3 to an inspired Korean team.
The heat is on in Glasgow. In all senses. The temperature, in this beautiful day, climbed up to 32 degrees in the Hall where players gathered all day long for the first day of the world mixed championships. But the heat was on court as well for both teams as they were both beaten in their opening group matches. Malaysia had fielded a strong team with their latest heroes Lee Chong Wei and the leaders of the Super Series men's doubles ranking Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong. The young duo couldn't cope with the pressure as they lost the key match of the tie to Robert Blair and Anthony Clark.
Before that, Wong Mew Choo and Lee Chong Wei had set Malaysia on the winning track after Nathan Robertson and Gail Emms had won the first point for England.
Leading 2-1 with two matches remaining, the tie seemed headed in Malaysia's favour, but Blair-Clark's fighting spirit gave England the edge. The duo, who had been runners up in last year's Madrid's world championships, gave a splendid performance against Koo and Tan, who have yet to lose against a European pair.
The English took the first and last games to even the tie at 2-2 and give the European champions Emms and Kellogg the opportunity to shine and take the remaining point even if the Malaysians were higher ranked.
The English almost lost this last tie when it all came down to the third game with Wong Pei Tty-Chin Eei Hui leading 20/18 in the rubber. The British duo stayed focused and drew level before taking the last game to frustrate the Malaysians.
"It was a very tight match which could have gone either way as they, also, are quite experienced" said Gail Emms."
"But we had been boosted by the win of our men's double and, as our coach call us, we are the "tough bit..."... well, we are tough !"
It was all satisfaction for Ian Wright, the team manager for England, who knew this tie would be a key win towards a possible and historical qualification for the semi finals of the Sudirman Cup.
"We are very pleased with this result. The players had prepared very well and they played without pressure as the Malaysians were favourites. I had told them to go out and give it all and enjoy themselves and they played superbly. We were the underdogs in both doubles and they showed
they were world class players to beat pairs who are better ranked than
them," said Wright.
"Some credit should be going to Tan Kim Her, our new coach from Malaysia, who prepared the players well to play against the Malaysians. He just called me up and said he had been following the tie live on the net for 4 hours ! It's a great reward for him as well. And most of all, it's a sweet revenge over Malaysia who had beaten us in the final of the Commonwealth Games last year." said Wright.
China had a smooth evening against Thailand's B team, but it was a different story for Indonesia, who struggled and failed against Korea in the other sub group of "death" where Denmark, Korea, Hong Kong and Indonesia have to fight for the best two spots.
Taufik had done his part of the job as did Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan but it wasn't enough and the disappointment came from the mixed doubles where former world number one Nova Widianto-Lilyana Natsir failed to deliver the first - in what would have won the tie - against scratch pair of Han Sang Hoon-Lee Hyo Jung.
Adriyanti Firdasari had been close to winning against Lee Yun Hwa but the tiny Korean hanged in there and scored an important point. The last point was brought by Korea's usual duo Lee Kyung Won-Lee Hyo Jung.
Denmark on their side, took it home after the first three matches, thanks to Tine Rasmussen, who made Yip Pui Yin bow in two games 22-20, 21-19 to claim the third and deciding point. This could have made Hong Kong wonder about what would have happened if they had fielded Wang Chen in the ladies single instead as Hong Kong won the last two maches of the day - the men's doubles and the ladies doubles, which could have ended up as an upset.
"We are pleased with this win especially Tine and the mixed doubles who had been injured, and we hope we can make it to the semi final again. It will be difficult as we are in a very tough group, but we still hope to qualify," said Denmark's coach Thomas Stuer Lauridsen.
In the other groups, the only half a surprise came in the hands of local players, who beat New Zealand 4-1, looking strong to go for the sub group play off if they make it past India - who beat Finland. France also looked very strong with a surprising 5-0 win over usually tough Ukrainians. USA beat Canada in the North American derby.
In group 2, there was revenge in the air as well when Japan took on the Netherlands with the hopes to forget about the semi final loss in last year's Uber Cup. And the Japanese did take their revenge as they beat the Dutch 4-1.