KUALA LUMPUR – Chinese star Lin Dan marched into the final of the world badminton championships Saturday as fellow world number one and teammate Zhang Ning suffered shock defeat.
Defending champion Lin, known as Super Dan to his legion of fans, downed compatriot and fourth seed Bao Chunlai 21-12, 22-20, and looked in formidable form for Sunday's final.
Lin takes on Indonesia's Sony Dwi Kuncoro who clawed his way back from one game down to clinch a gruelling encounter 18-21, 21-13, 21-15 with China's sixth seed Chen Yu.
With the crowd cheering his name, the Indonesian ninth seed threw everything at Chen, often diving to the floor in desperate attempts to reach shots.
"It's going to be another very difficult and tiring match against Lin Dan but this is my chance to win the title," said Kuncoro who slayed Malaysian giant Lee Chong Wei on his road to the final.
China's great hope in the women's singles, Zhang, was stunned by Wang Chen from China's Hong Kong who used contrasting pace to down the Olympic champion 21-11, 21-15 and reach her first ever world final.
"This is my last world championships, so I came here hoping to get a medal and now I'm trying to go for gold," a delighted Wang, 31, said of her win.
Wang said her strategy was to play fast and furious in the first game, but slow down the pace in the second, when she knew Zhang would come out firing.
Wang, the Asian Games champion, faces a showdown Sunday with fifth seed Zhu Lin who easily dispensed with teammate Lu Lan 21-10, 21-13.
Zhang, the Olympic champion and a veteran of the Chinese team, joins a string of stars who have fallen in this wildly unpredictable tournament.
Malaysia's chances of winning their first-ever title were snuffed out Saturday when doubles duo Choong Tan Fook and Lee Wan Wah went down fighting against Indonesia's Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan.
The Malaysians, who have watched their more high-profile teammates exit Putra Stadium this week, produced some spectacular badminton but were eventually edged out 22-20, 28-26.
The Indonesian fifth seeds take on South Korea's Jung Jae-Sung and Lee Yong-Dae who downed Japan's national champions Shuichi Sakamoto and Shintaro Ikeda in their semi-final 21-16, 21-12.
"I was really nervous but point by point it got easier against them," Lee said.
China is guaranteed gold in the women's doubles after third seeds Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen upstaged number ones Zhang Yawen and Wei Yili in a three-game thriller 19-21, 21-18, 21-16.
They take on defending champions Gao Ling and Huang Sui who triumphed over Japan's Kumiko Ogura and Reiko Shiota also in three games 21-16, 23-25, 21-16.
It was China versus Indonesia in the mixed doubles, with the archipelago's Nova Widianto and Lilyana Natsir holding off a ferocious challenge from China's third seeds Xie Zhongbo and Zhang Yamen.
The Indonesians won the first game, only for China to charge back in the second. Neither side would break away in the third, and China, at 17-20 down, saved three match points only to be denied, with Indonesia winning 22-20.
The second seeds face in the final China's number ones Zheng Bo and Gao Ling who had an equally tough fight against Indonesia's sixth seeds Flandy Limpele and Vita Marissa.
The Chinese, who have won six titles since coming together since this year, fought back from one game down to win 17-21, 21-19, 21-19.