Badminton action heats up

Updated: 2015-05-12 07:42

By Sun Xiaochen(China Daily)

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China gears up for stiff competition in Sudirman Cup

As the 2015 Sudirman Cup's third day of action gets underway on Tuesday in Dongguan, Guangdong province, China's badminton stars once again take on the world and attract global attention at the world mixed team championships.

The narrowed gap between China and other countries means this year's cup will see arguably the fieciest title race in the past decade. Main rivals including South Korea and Japan have improved their strength and are expecting to spoil China's sixth consecutive cup title at home.

"We have taken probably the most serious approach to the tournament in the past 10 years as everybody prepared for it to the utmost in training. That's because we felt we would face the biggest challenge ever," Li Yongbo, head coach of the Chinese national badminton squad, said before the tournament.

Based on world rankings, all 35 competing teams at the Dongguan tournament were divided into four groups. Only 12 squads in Group 1 have a chance at lifting the champion's trophy, while the remaining contenders are competing for promotion spots to higher groups.

Although China has proven its supremacy at the biennial tournament by claiming the trophy nine times since 1995, the decline of strength in both the men's and women's sides has emerged as an issue for the winning momentum to continue.

At the Dongguan tournament, 31-year-old Lin Dan remains China's star, with far more composure and experience in close matches than the younger generation including world No 1 Chen Long.

"Although the score looks easy, I tried my best in the match as I wanted to show everybody that Lin Dan's game is still on the highest level," he said after beating German veteran Marc Zwiebler, 2-0, in the men's singles match on China's opening-day victory against Germany on Sunday.

In May 2014, the Chinese men's squad lost to Japan during the semifinals of the world men's team championship without Lin, who didn't qualify for the event due to low ranking. The Chinese male contingent was also defeated by host Korea at the men's team final at the Incheon Asian Games in September.

Japan's young star Kento Momota, who was a member of the country's male title-winning squad last year, didn't mince his words when he said that his team was among the title favorites in Dongguan this year.

"Although I am one of the youngest players in the team, I am ready to take on the responsibility. We have a strong squad and we are aiming to win the Sudirman Cup," said the 20-year-old after Japan beat Russia 4-1 on Sunday.

Korean Lee Yong Dae, who enjoys massive fan support at home and even in China, said he also envisions a victorious campaign for his country in Dongguan.

"I am grateful for that (support of the Chinese crowd). When I hear the fans, I feel inspired to play my best. We will fight to try to win every match."

In the women's competition, China will face legitimate threats from Thailand and India in Group 1. Thailand's world No 6 Ratchanok Inthanon and Indian star Saina Nehwal both showed competence against China by defeating the country's current and former world No 1's Li Xuerui and Wang Yihan at multiple international events in recent years.

However, Li remains upbeat.

"It's all positive to have more tough opponents emerging against us around the world. Fiercer competition is good for us to push ourselves and further improve on," she said on Sunday.

China will square up to Thailand in its last group match on Tuesday with high hopes of advancing to the quarterfinals on Thursday.

Thomas Lund, secretary-general of the Badminton World Federation, praised China's contribution to badminton despite concerns that the Chinese dominance could affect the sport's appeal to the rest of the world.

"It goes without saying that China has elevated the competition to extraordinary levels. China's success is not only an example for other nations seeking to excel in badminton, but in all sports.

"As hosts, China has always set a very high standard. The level of organization, the spectator and media interest as well as government support have been exemplary," Lund said.

 Badminton action heats up

New partners Tang Yuanting (left) and Yu Yang beat Isabel Herttrich and Birgit Michels from Germany, 21-14, 21-14 in the women's doubles. Provided to China Daily

 Badminton action heats up

Defending champion Lin Dan eased past Germany's Marc Zwiebler in the men's singles in two straight 21-11 scores on the opening day of the Sudirman Cup. Provided to China Daily

 Badminton action heats up

Top-ranked Li Xuerui beat German Karin Schnaase 2-0 in the first round of Sudirman Cup. Provided to China Daily

(China Daily 05/12/2015 page7)