China clinch badminton’s Uber Cup in Olympic warning (pic)


JAKARTA (AFP) — China clinched their sixth consecutive Uber Cup team championship on Saturday, toppling Indonesia 3-0.


Lu Lan of China returns the shuttlecock against Adriyanti Firdasari of Indonesia

The result was widely expected with the revitalised Indonesian women, a former world force, in their first final in 10 years.

But with the Indonesian men unexpectedly dumped from the Thomas Cup on Friday by South Korea, national expectations were high.

Such was the interest that Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono turned up to watch the match, only to leave disappointed.

World number one Xie Xingfang quickly hammered home the reality with an easy 21-8, 21-15 victory over Indonesia's top player Maria Kristin, keeping her cool in front of a full and deafening Bung Karno Sports Hall.

The world's top doubles team, Yang Wei and Zhang Jiewen, had a point to prove after losing their match in the semi-finals and they got the better of Lilyana Natsir and Vita Marissa, but it wasn't easy.

Natsir and Marissa bounced back after losing the first set to take the second and pushed hard in the third, but the Chinese pair's experience paid off at the crunch and they eventually won the nailbiter 21-15, 19-21, 21-16.

In an indication of who might win the race to be China's third singles player at the Olympics after Xie and the injured Zhang Ning, Lu Lan was entrusted with the third rubber ahead of Zhu Lin.

She justified her selection, thumping Adriyanti Firdasari 21-12, 21-10 to hand China their 11th Uber Cup crown in 13 attempts.

Xie said she had trouble blocking out the noisy crowd in the earlier rounds but learned to cope and played at her best against Kristin.

"In the first few matches I struggled with the audience, and it has been my first time playing as the opening singles and there was a lot of pressure, but I was prepared mentally today and it all came together," she said.

Xie, who was promoted to first singles in the absence the injured Zhang, added that winning such an intense tournament was ideal preparation for the Olympics, where China is widely expected to sweep the board.

"Winning a team competition like this is very good in boosting morale ahead of the Olympics. We have a good very team spirit and very good support from the people behind the team as well.

"I hope I can do well in Beijing."

It was the fifth meeting between China and Indonesia in an Uber Cup final.

Before Saturday, the two badminton powerhouses had a 2-2 record against each other.

China won twice, in 1986 and 1998, while Indonesia beat China to the Cup in 1994 and 1996, with current coach Susi Susanti, the 1992 Barcelona Olympic gold medallist, spearheading the attack.

The men's Thomas Cup final is played on Sunday with China, led by Xie's boyfriend, world number one Lin Dan, gunning for their third straight title against a Korean side who have never won before.


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