Favourites China team will take on either South Korea or Japan in the Sudirman Cup badminton final following a 3-1 semifinal victory over Indonesia here on Saturday.
China, who have won five Sudirman Cups in a row since 2005, met some challenges in two doubles disciplines but controlled the momentum throughout. Now, the defending champions are only a step away from their sixth consecutive title of the World Mixed Team Championships, reports Xinhua.
Reigning Olympic champions Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng failed to take the lead for the hosts as the veteran pair lost the opening men's doubles contest 16-21, 17-21 to World No.3 Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan.
"We have played so many years. There is always one day when I can lose. It's difficult to keep unbeaten," said Cai, the 35-year-old captain of the Chinese team. They had never beaten the Indonesian pair since 2013.
Although Cai/Fu have no chance to compete in the Rio Olympics due to age and fatigue, they are still popular with Chinese fans, hailed as a combination of "Wind and Cloud". "No regrets. This should be my last time to compete in Sudirman Cup. Now, every time when I pair with Fu Haifeng, it is a breakthrough for me," added Cai.
Cai's appearance in the opening game can be seen as a strategy for China. Fu Haifeng's fixed partner in recent years is Zhang Nan and they have a better head-to-head record against the opponents. But Zhang still needs to pair with Zhao Yunlei in the last discipline of mixed doubles.
So it was not a surprise for Indonesia to lead 1-0 before a packed arena composed of home fans at the Dongguan Sports Center.
The followings are in the hands of the defending champions. Reigning Olympic women's singles champion Li Xuerui trailed 3-5 to Bellaetrix Manuputty at first but an accidental injury to the visitor let the game finish after just seven minutes, bringing the two sides to a 1-1 draw.
"When I turned back, I saw she had kneeled down. It looked painful and I also felt sorry for her," said Xuerui.
After that World No.1 Chen Long gave China a 2-1 lead with a 21-10, 21-15 win over Christie Jonatan in 48 minutes.
The closet match was in women's doubles. The newly-assembled pair Yu Yang/Tang Yuanting overcame a first-game slump and came from behind to upset the World No.7 Nitya Krishinda Maheswari/Greysia Polii, sealing the tie at 17-21, 21-17, 21-15.