WUHAN, China: China punished a spirited Thailand to reach the Uber Cup final on Thursday and set up a revenge mission against holders South Korea.
"I want to win and get the Uber Cup back home," said China’s world number one Wang Yihan after beating gifted 17-year-old Inthanon Ratchanok 21-18, 21-15.
"Two years ago I lost the match. I felt so much pressure. It’s my responsibility," Wang said, referring to the 2010 final in Kuala Lumpur when she sensationally lost in straight games as China went down 3-1 to South Korea.
That shock defeat to the Koreans saw China surrender their crown, but head coach Li Yongbo made no secret of his team’s determination to get it back again.
"Tomorrow we will study South Korea’s match, then do intensive training and on Saturday — revenge," he said.
South Korea’s historic win two years ago broke China’s twelve-year stranglehold on the competition, with six consecutive Uber Cup wins.
"Today my performance was so-so," said Wang after seeing off the talented Inthanon.
"The competition was very fierce… It is half a year since we last played each other and she has some new features in her game I am not familiar with."
The Thai teenager cut a contrasting figure to the brooding, intense Wang on court. "I tried to enjoy myself out there. Just smile when I made a mistake," she said, still beaming despite her loss.
"I am very happy," Inthanon said after her country’s first appearance in an Uber Cup semi-final. "It is a new story for Thailand."
The Thais seduced the Wuhan crowd after a number of their earlier matches turned into epics, full of long rallies and quick-fire exchanges at the net.
In the first semi-final of the day, South Korea secured their place in the final beating Japan 3-0 and looking fresh despite their late-night nail-biter against Taiwan on Wednesday, which they won 3-2.
World number 11 Sung Ji-Hyun wrapped up a quick first win in the singles 21-15, 21-10, making clear she has a strong outside chance of a medal at the London Olympics in July, where China’s women are expected to dominate.
In December, the promising South Korean beat Wang Yihan in the World Superseries Finals and she will likely face the Chinese star shuttler in the first singles match of the final on Saturday.
"I have to be confident, patient, not fight too hard or I will lose," said the 20-year-old Sung. "If I believe in myself, then I can win."
South Korea’s head coach stressed mental strength and team spirit was needed if his side was to hold on to the Uber Cup.
"If you are very confident, you will win. But the Uber Cup is a team event so if the team stick together then they will be one very strong mind together, fighting against China."