Kuala Lumpur. Eight-time champions China reached their 10th consecutive Sudirman Cup badminton final on Saturday, seeing off Denmark in Kuala Lumpur and setting up a clash for the title with South Korea.
Three-time champs South Korea reached their seventh Cup final when they defeated a spirited Thailand 3-1 in the other semi-final earlier in the day.
Sunday’s final will be the fourth time between the two countries. South Korea beat China in 2003 but lost in 1997 and 2009, but China have dominated the Sudirman Cup over the past decade.
They have shown some vulnerability this week, however, surviving an earlier scare in the quarter-finals when Indonesia dragged them to the limit.
On Saturday, world and Olympic champions Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng of China fell 16-21, 17-21 to Denmark’s world number-one pair Carsten Mogensen and Mathias Boe in men’s doubles.
“They [Cai and Fu] have beaten them in many big tournaments, including the Olympic final a year ago. It was just not their day,” said China coach Li Yongbo.
But China made the final thanks to a straightforward victory by mixed doubles pair Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei over Joachim Fischer Nielsen-Christinna Pedersen 21-15, 21-12.
Chen Long also got past Jan O Jorgensen 21-16, 21-16 in men’s singles, and Olympic champion Li Xuerui crushed 19-year-old Line Kjaersfeldt 21-13, 21-9 in 26 minutes.
Denmark head coach Lars Uhre said China were just too strong.
“We always believe we can beat China but it didn’t happen today. Denmark and the rest of the world will have to work harder to stop China’s domination,” he said.
Ko Sung-hyun was the hero for the South Koreans, winning his mixed and men’s doubles matches.
“It wasn’t easy. The match was very different from that of our group encounter [South Korea won 5-0]. This is the semi-finals and it is definitely harder,” said Ko.
Ko and Kim Ha-na outplayed former All-England runners-up Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam 21-18, 21-19 in only 26 minutes.
Thai veteran Boonsak Ponsana then levelled the match when he thrashed Lee Dong-Keun 21-9, 21-12.
“It was my game plan to make his life hard. I wanted to move him round the court,” said Boonsak.
Ko and Lee Yong-Dae made it 2-1 for South Korea with a comprehensive 21-12, 21-11 victory over Maneepong Jongjit and Nipitphon Puangpuapech.
Sung Ji-Hyun then outplayed three-time world junior champion Ratchanok Inthanon 21-17, 21-14 to clinch victory against the Thais, who were in their first-ever Sudirman Cup semi-final.
South Korea won the Sudirman Cup in 1991, 1993 and 2003 and last reached the final in 2009.
But China have owned the competition since 1995, winning eight of the last nine Sudirman Cups, including the last four.