Tuesday, November 16, 2010

ASIAN GAMES Team SF – Happy Birthday Kunchala!

The second session of the badminton team semi-finals at the Guangzhou Asian Games saw some surprises with the victory of Thailand’s ladies over Indonesia on Kunchala Voravichitchaikul’s birthday, China white-washed Indonesia’s men’s team in spite of some tough good resistance.
Raphael Sachetat, live from Guangzhou.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)
The evening started with a rather unusual ceremony: before the evening session and the second half of the semi-finals, Kunchala Voravichitchaikul was called on court and handed over a small present while the whole stadium was singing “Happy Birthday”.  It was a unique moment for the Thai woman, who was turning 26, but the best was to come: as a wonderful birthday present, she was to deliver the winning point to send her team off to the Asian Games women’s team final.
Once again, it was Salakjit Ponsana who delivered the crucial first point, this time against Adriayanti Firdasari. The tiny Thai played her usual tiring game, making her opponent run the four corners and soon she had given Thailand the best start thanks to an even score in the three games 21-17, 17-21, 21-17.
Polii and Jauhari put the tie back to square but another singles player, Porntip Buranaprasertsuk, put back Thailand in the lead, convincingly beating Maria Febe Kusumastuti in straight games 21-12, 21-15.  The “Think Pink” wave hit once again in the second doubles where the trick of having the more experienced Kunchala and Saralee worked wonders again. The two friends took one game to get going against Indonesia’s own scratch pair of Maheswari and Bernadet but managed to clinched both the second and third games, making a dream come true for Kunchala, on her birthday.
The majority of spectators had left after the Chinese had finished playing, but nevertheless, the Thais were on for a joyful party on the court even after the lights had been switched off, enjoying this historical result.
China on a roll
After the girls in the afternoon, it was the boys turn to shine in the evening session with 5 matches worth finals of any Super Series.  Only 3 were to be  played, however, as China was clearly a cut above on Sunday.
First, Taufik Hidayat (pictured) and Lin Dan fought with ups and downs in the quality of the game, but there were times when both shuttlers showed their best level, with amazing rallies – in the first part of the first game, and then again towards the end of the match, where Lin Dan saved 2 game points to come back from 18-20 to finally beat Taufik 21-13, 23-21.  It was a symbolic victory for the Chinese legend, who had been deprived of the Asian Games gold medal last time by Taufik, in Doha in 2006.
Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng (pictured) also were troubled – they even lost the second game – against Kido and Setiawan, but the rematch of the Olympic final saw a different winner this time as Cai and Fu put a lot more pressure in the third game to take it away 23-21, 14-21, 21-10.
“They played very aggressively in the second game at the front of the court, and we tried to match them there, which was a mistake” said Fu Haifeng.  “We fell for it but we were able to think again in the decider and play from the rear court again and take an early attack.”
Chen Jin just had to finish it up with an impressive victory from the World Champion 21-11, 21-15, leading China to a final clash against the Koreans – where once against the third men’s singles could be an interesting battle.  China is the clear favourite on paper, but Lin Dan’s recent loss to Park Sung Hwan in Paris and Lee Yong Dae and Jung Jae Sung’s penchant for beating Cai and Fu will make it an interesting tie.

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