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China claims Uber Cup

By Prakash Padukone

KUALA LUMPUR, MAY 20. China once again confirmed its supremacy in the women' badminton in no uncertain terms when it outplayed Denmark 3-0 in the finals of the Uber Cup at Stadium Putra on Saturday afternoon. The result was a foregone conclusion and no one had any doubts regarding China winning the Cup.

This was also evident in the spirit displayed by the Danes on the court. From their body language it was obvious that the Danes knew that they would finish runner-up this time as well.

The atmosphere in the stadium was quite the opposite of what had prevailed on Friday during Thomas Cup tie between Indonesia and Denmark. The Chinese also knew that they were the favourites to win the title. Hence there was none of the usual

fist-pumping, kneeling down on the ground etc. after each victory. On the other hand, it was business as usual for the victors.

China first played in the Uber Cup in 1984 after joining the International Badminton Federation in 1981. Since then it reached the final on every occasion and except for two years in 1994 and 1996 when Indonesia won the Cup. This was China's seventh Uber Cup triumph since 1984. Today's victory only reconfirmed the strangle-hold they have had over women's badminton. But today's tie will surely rank as one of the easiest finals they have ever played. The finals were so one-sided that the days entire proceedings were over in less than 90 minutes.

Over the years China has managed to build a strong team both in singles and doubles. The current Uber Cup team would certainly rank as one of the best they have ever produced. For there have been occasions in the past when some of their players were vulnerable or the opposition had players of equal standing in their ranks. But the present team outshines them all mainly because of their overall strength.

In a repeat of the clash of the two best players in women's badminton, World No.2 Gong Zhichao easily accounted for World No.1 from Denmark Camilla Martin 11-9, 11-5. The Dane was expected to put up a much better show and perhaps even win her match. But that was not to be. The young Chinese player played a calculated game to outshine her senior opponent in straight games. Unlike the other Chinese girls whose game is based more on aggression, Gong Zhichao is a percentage player who depends more on accuracy. She does not commit too many errors and makes the opponent earn every point. This makes it difficult for the opponents to score points.

Compared to her compatriots, Gong can be termed as a defensive player. She has no doubt sharp strokes but does not have a big hit. She is not tall either. She makes up for all these qualities with her consistency and sharp strokes which she uses at the right time. Gong of course has the required speed and fitness to match the rest of the top players in the world. But I would definitely not rate her in the same class as some of her illustrious predecessors like Li Lingwei, Han Aiping and even the current Chinese No.3 Ye Zhaoying. These were players of a different class.Of course Gong is still young and has a long way to go. She is bound to improve in the years to come.

Coming back to today's match, Camilla was certainly the better of the two players but she did not have the required patience to play against a player of Gong's style. She seemed over-anxious and paid the penalty. The opening game saw both players going neck to neck till 9 before Gong finished the game without conceding any further points. But it was a different story in the second game. Gong lead right through to win the game for the loss of only five points. The defeat was a big setback for the Danes for a victory in this match would have boosted the confidence of her team-mates.

The first doubles pitted Gu Jun and Gei Fei against Helene Kirkrgaard and Rikke Olsen, ranked fifth in the world. This match was also not very different from the earlier one. The Chinese pair meant business from the start and scored an easy 15- 2,15-9 win over the Danes in just 24 minutes. In the opening game Gu Jun and Gei Fei never allowed their opponents to settle down and in a flash had raced to a 12-0 lead. The Danes were in total disarray and hit the shuttle repeatedly over the baseline. This made the Chinese task even easier.

The Danes seemed rattled by the defeat of Camilla Martin in the opening singles and looked disheartened. They gave a much better account of themselves in the second game and went into the lead for the first time in the match at 6-2. But that was as far as they could get. The Chinese pair quickly recovered their composure and levelled the score at 6. They never looked back thereafter and won the game conceding three more points in the process.

With the score 2-0 in favour of China, it was left to southpaw Dai Yun to give her country the winning 3-0 lead with a victory over ninth ranked Dane Mette Sorensen.

After encountering some resistance in the first game from the Dane, Dai Yun outwitted her opponent in the next 11-1. This match was the shortest of the three played today lasting only 20 minutes. With the tie already decided in favour of China,the last two matches were not played as per the latest IBF ruling.

Thomas Cup finals today

A full-house is expected tomorrow afternoon for the Thomas Cup finals between the two super powers of world badminton - China and Indonesia. All the tickets have already been sold out despite the home team Malaysia not playing in the finals. Both sides are well balanced and the tie could go either way. A lot would depend on which players both teams will field especially in the doubles. Indonesians seem to have more options in the doubles which could prove crucial in the end. If Indonesia is able to win both the doubles, the Thomas Cup could go their way. However no one is still sure whether world champion Sun Jun will be fit enough to play. If he is fit and does play, it could prove to be a tricky situation for the Indonesians. Otherwise they hold a slight edge. But anything can happen in a tense situation.

The results (Uber Cup finals):

China bt Denmark 3-0 (Gong Zhichao bt Camilla Martin 11-9, 11-5; Gu Jun/Gei Fei bt Helene Kirkegaard/Rikke Olsen 15-2, 15-9; Dai Yun bt Mette Sorensen 11- 8, 11-1; Gao Ling/Qin Yiyuan vs A.Jorgensen/M. Schjoldager not played; Ye Zhaoying vs Mette Pedersen not played).

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