China all over again


It was from the depth of her misery that Christinna Pedersen, Danish mixed doubles player, uttered a fundamental truth that reflected the dilemma of the human condition.

"You know, I was so happy yesterday that I won the bronze," she said. "Today, I’m not happy at all that I have the bronze. I want to play tomorrow for the gold."

Pedersen and partner Joachim Fischer Nielsen had just lost a heartbreaking semifinal of the World Badminton Championships to world No.2 Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir of Indonesia. It was traumatic, for they had a 11-6 lead in the third game before crumbling to an Indonesian assault.

The mixed doubles were among the several good matches on Saturday, a day which ended with glory for China, disappointment for Malaysia, and redemption for Denmark.
Three of Sunday’s finals will be all Chinese, while the Chinese men’s doubles team will take on Korea. Only the mixed doubles will not feature China — instead, it will have Danish veterans Thomas Laybourn /Kamilla Rytter Juhl against Indonesians Widianto and Natsir.

The women’s singles semifinals, featuring three Chinese and a Frenchwoman of Chinese extraction, ended with Lu Lan and former champion Xie Xingfang setting up a final showdown. Whether any of the all-Chinese finals will be competitive affairs is anybody’s guess. If Lin Dan does manage a gold, he will be the first singles player in history to become world champion thrice in succession.

The features of the day were the two China-Indonesia men’s singles semifinals: Indonesian maverick Taufik Hidayat against Chinese young gun Chen Jin, while the inconsistent Sony Dwi Kuncoro took on legend-in-action Lin Dan.

The second was the closer match, for Sony matched Lin Dan on several counts, and the defending champion was stretched to three games. Kuncoro played a patient game, waiting for his opportunity to strike, and when it did, he rose to crack a thundering smash that unsettled Lin. Both knew they could not afford to lift the shuttle, and a fine chess-game followed. Each move was met by a smart counter. Lin was certainly not at his best, and Kuncoro — recently married and out of training — nevertheless made a match of it. He took the second game after forcing a string of errors from the normally-unflappable Lin, and the deciding game was a fair contest until midway. But then the Chinese great, as always, switched gear and powered ahead, leaving Kuncoro with the same sinking feeling he must’ve had after the final of the last World Championships. "I wasn’t at my best, but he played a mature, precise game and gave me no opportunities to attack," said Lin. "It doesn’t matter what happens in the final, for the gold is with China."

The most awaited match was however Taufik against Chen Jin. Taufik was majestic at the beginning, caressing the shuttle to all corners and making Chen look like an intruder at a ballet. Chen — all power, speed, and enormous smash — was caught by the Indonesian’s sorcery, but rather like Nadal against Federer, was fleet-footed enough to cover up after he’d been deceived. That was the difference on the day — Taufik kept fooling Chen, but the Chinese was quick enough to recover position and smash any high shuttle until Taufik had no answers left. "I couldn’t do anything," said Taufik. "He played well. I’m 29, he’s 25. If I was younger I would’ve beaten him easily. But today I had no answers."

Results: Men’s singles: 5-Lin Dan (CHN) bt 6-Sony D Kuncoro (INA) 21-14 13-21 21-18; 2-Chen Jin (CHN) bt 4-Taufik Hidayat (INA) 21-16 21-6
Women’s singles: 5-Xie Xingfang (CHN) bt 8-Pi Hongyan (FRA) 21-18 21-8; 7-Lu Lan (CHN) bt 2-Wang Lin (CHN) 21-18 21-19
Men’s doubles: Jung Jae Sung/ Lee Yong Dae (KOR) bt Koo Kien Keat/ Tan Boon Heong (MAS) 16-21 21-14 22-20; Cai Yun/ Fu Haifeng (CHN) bt Abdul Latif/ Fairuz Tazari (MAS) 18-21 24-22 21-15
Women’s doubles: Shu Cheng/ Zhao Yunlei (CHN) bt Ma Jin/ Wang Xiaoli (CHN) 21-16 21-12; Zhang Yawen/ Zhao Tingting (CHN) bt Du Jing/ Yu Yang (CHN) 24-22 18-21 21-18
Mixed doubles: Nova Widianto/ Lilyana Natsir (INA) bt Fischer Nielsen/ Christinna Pedersen (DEN) 21-18 14-21 21-18; Thomas Laybourn/ Kamilla Rytter Juhl (DEN) bt Lee Yong Dae/ Lee Hyo Jung (KOR) 18-21 21-9 21-18


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