Gold Coast: Besides Sung Ji-hyun, the South Korea has chosen a young and relatively inexperienced team to take on badminton powerhouse China in the Sudirman Cup final. The gamble paid off when Korea came from 2-1 down to beat China 3-2 to win their first Sudirman Cup since 2003 at Australia’s Gold Coast on Sunday.
China’s Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan got off to a promising start when they claimed a 21-14 21-15 win over Choi Solgyu/Seo Seung Jae of Korea in 43 minutes.
However, women’s singles arguably the weakest spot for China after the retirements of Wang Yihan, Wang Shixian, while London Olympic champion Li Xuerui was still out due to knee injury. The lefthander He Bingjiao was crushed by Sung Ji-hyun of Korea 12-21, 16-21, allowing Korea to level the tie at 1-1.
Korea made a surprising move in men’s singles, where they benched World No. 1 men’s singles player Son Wan Ho, instead, letting Jeon Hyeok-Jin to face Chen Long, the reigning Olympic champion, two-time World champion and All England champion of China.
Undoubtedly, Chen Long, confirmed no mercy in dealing with Jeon where the Olympic champion wrapped up an easy 21-10, 21-10 victory in 47 minutes to give China a 2-1 lead.
The South Koreans held their nerves and clawed their way back into the contest through women’s doubles pair Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee. Chang/Lee came out on top at the end of a tremendously fierce battle against Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan of China, winning the women’s doubles event 21-19, 21-13 to send the Sudirman Cup final into the decider.
World No. 14 mixed doubles pair Choi Solgyu/Chae Yoo Jung were clear underdogs when they meet World No. 2 mixed doubles pair Lu Kai/Huang Yaqiong in the last match of the Sudirman Cup final.
However, the Koreans players were far more decisive, and proactive, playing with tremendous defense that eventually bested their Chinese foes to clinch the crucial third point with 21-17, 21-13. After Huang Yaqiong of China failed to make a cross court net shot, the entire South Korean team surged onto the court in celebration with Chae eventually climbing off the floor in tears.
“Frankly, I was nervous,” said Chae. “We had a bad start, but it was last match, I told myself just to play like I have nothing to lose,” added Chae.
“I would like to thank my team-mates for keeping us alive in the tie and taking the tie to the last match.”
The victory – Korea’s first in the biennial tournament since Eindhoven in 2003 – ended China’s 14-year grip on the Sudirman Cup.
South Korea also won the Sudirman Cup in 1991 and 1993.