KUALA LUMPUR: Badminton powerhouse Indonesia smashed its way to a record 17th Thomas Cup final on Friday, delivering Japan an unforgettable master class in athleticism, agility and passion.
The 13-time champion strolled to victory with a 3-1 win in front of large and vocal support at the Putra Stadium in Kuala Lumpur, breaking stride only occasionally to change ends and wipe down their racquets.
The second seeds' World No. 5 Taufik Hidayat hit his best form so far, forcing All England runner-up Kenichi Tago all over the court with a nonchalant mix of passes, disguised drop shots and smashes to win 21-9, 21-14.
“I feel like I am getting better and better,” said the former World and Olympic champion, who has been winning despite inconsistent form in the early stages of the tournament.
“I was more cautious in the second set and more comfortable in the first. I made some mistakes but I didn't allow my opponent to take advantage of them. “It wasn't an easy game for me but I'm going to improve my game for the final. What counts is I'm fighting for my country.
Indonesia looked fresh after an easy path through the quarters and capitalised on a weary Japan, which had scraped to a five-set win against Malaysia in an epic encounter.
“There is no doubt my condition wasn't very good but I couldn't figure out why, and that was the problem,” Tago said. “Taufik is the best player ever. Even though sometimes he is defeated by other top players, he is the best.
Indonesia's Olympic champion doubles pairing of Markis Kido and Hendra Setiawan piled on the agony, dispatching Kenichi Hayakawa and Kenta Kazuno 21-9, 21-11 in just 22 minutes to put Indonesia 2-0 up.
Only Japan's Sho Sasaki was able to offer resistance, beating Indonesia's Simon Santoso, who was picked as second singles player to replace the injured Sony Dwi Kuncoro. Santoso fought back after going a set down but in the end was unable to fend off the battling Sasaki, who stormed to 21-11 in the deciding set.
Thomas Cup: Semifinals: Indonesia bt Japan 3-1 (Taufik Hidayat bt Kenichi Tago 21-9, 21-14; Simon Santoso lost to Sho Sasaki 19-21, 21-13, 11-21; Markis Kido & Hendra Setiawan bt Kenichi Hayakawa & Kenta Kazuno 21-9, 21-11.
Nova Widianto & Alvent Yulianto Chandra bt Noriyasu Hirata & Hiroyuki Endo 21-14, 22-20. China bt Malaysia 3-0 (Lin Dan bt Lee Chong Wei 21-17, 21-8; Cai Yun & Fu Haifeng bt Koo Kien Keat & Tan Boon Heong 21-15, 21-10; Chen Ji bt Wong Choong Hann 21-16, 21-7). — AFP