Assured of gold and silver, China can start celebrating victory in the Mixed Doubles in badminton at the London 2012 Olympics.
While they will not know until tomorrow which pair ascends the top of the podium, they know it will be either the world No. 1 or No. 2 pair; both of whom are Chinese. Either pair needed three games to subdue their respective opponents – Denmark and Indonesia – at Wembley Arena this afternoon.
Zhao Yunlei and Zhang Nan pulled away from Denmark’s Joachim Fischer and Christinna Pedersen in the closing stages of the third game to advance to the gold-medal game 17-21, 21-17, 21-19.
The losers would have been utterly disappointed after fighting back to level at 18-18 in the third game only for Fischer to feel the pressure and short serve into the net. Pedersen’s return of Zhao Yunlei’s serve wide of the court in quick succession gifted match point to the Chinese who wasted no time in securing victory.
In the other semi-final, Indonesia’s Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir (featured image) – having looked in fine form all week – were unable to capitalise on their good run, falling 21-23, 18-21, 21-13 to Xu Chen/Ma Jin. They have the consolation of playing for bronze against Denmark.
“We were playing very well but we felt tremendous pressure at the beginning of the third game. The Chinese tactic to push me to the back court was effective. I couldn’t establish my position at the net,” explained Natsir.
Taking responsibility for his half of the defeat, Ahmad admitted: “Deep down I was very nervous but I didn’t want to show it.”
In Women’s Singles, Thailand’s Ratchanok Inthanon started coldly only to run hot with a patch of sheer brilliance to overtake Wang Xin three quarters of the way into the first game and win it 21-17. The Chinese kept looking to her coach for advice but nothing seemed to work as sweetly timed smash winners or drop shots kept coming off the Thai teenager’s racket.
Wang’s consistent quality was never in doubt though and she weathered Inthanon’s onslaught. Meanwhile, the latter was intent upon continuing in the same attacking vein but began to miss the lines on her smashes. After the interval, Inthanon hit upon another purple patch and led once more, edging closer to the prospect of an Olympic semi-final but the inspiration dried up before the finish line and Wang erased the point deficit and went on to capture game two 21-18.
Inthanon massaged her foot at the break, indicating something was wrong. Wang capitalized on her strength of running opponents into the ground to take the final game 21-14. The vanquished teen received a standing ovation. Later she revealed her foot had become sore and affected her movement.
“I was playing very well but my foot got sore in the middle of the match. Wang Xin changed her tactics and I’m very frustrated that I lost my lead in the second set. I could have won it in two sets,” said the tearful Inthanon who was consoled by a phone calle from her parents, saying how proud they were of her.
The adjacent court boasted a rematch of last year’s World Championships final between China’s world No. 1 Wang Yihan and world No. 9 Cheng Shao Chieh of Chinese Taipei. The result was again in Wang’s favour, 21-14 21-11.
China’s Li Xuerui and India’s Saina Nehwal also won their quarter-finals meaning the Women’s Singles semis will be contested by the top four seeds.