Denmark and South Korea, two of the main rivals to home nation China in badminton’s prestigious Thomas and Uber Cups world team championships, began their campaigns with convincing wins in Wuhan on Sunday.
Both Denmark and South Korea in the men’s Thomas Cup won their ties comfortably 5-0, showing favorites China they may not have it all their way in a week that is key preparation for the upcoming London Olympics.
The Danish men, finalists eight times but never victors, were never troubled by South Africa and were well led by 35-year-old Peter Gade as they look to silence critics before the Olympics after this season’s poor run of results.
Denmark is one of the sides along with Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Indonesia to have a fighting chance of stealing the Thomas Cup from the Chinese, who play their first group tie against England in the evening session.
The toughest match for South Korea’s men in an otherwise cool 5-0 win against the USA came in the first doubles tie as Yoo Yeon-Seong and Ko Sung-Hyun beat Howard Bach and Olympic medallist Tony Gunawan in three close games.
In the women’s competition, the Uber Cup, China is also seeded first and the team demolished South Africa 5-0. In world number one Wang Yihan’s opening match her opponent Kerry-Lee Harrington managed to steal just three points.
The Chinese women’s squad on paper is led by the three Wangs — Yihan, Xin and Shixian — who occupy the top three spots in the world rankings.
But in a sign of her stunning recent form, world number four Li Xuerui has been picked to play the third women’s singles in Wuhan, with Wang Shixian playing doubles.
The Chinese women are looking to lift the Uber Cup for a seventh time, and erase the memory of their shock defeat in the 2010 final in Kuala Lumpur by Korea.
In the evening session China’s men come out against England but the home nation will be looking sideways at a dangerous Japan side, playing New Zealand in the other Thomas Cup tie.
In the Uber Cup, Taiwan will play The Netherlands and Korea begin the defense of their title against Australia.