China stay on collision course with favourites

DEFENDING champions China and arch rivals Indonesia and Malaysia duly booked their semi-final places in the Seiko Asian Championships when they won their second successive group matches at the Queen Elizabeth Stadium last night.

China and Malaysia lived up to their seedings in Group A by crushing Japan and Hongkong respectively while in Group B Indonesia stayed on course for a tilt at the title with a 5-0 thrashing of Taiwan.

The Chinese, bidding for their third straight team crown, showed they are ready to take on any challengers, breezing past Japan without dropping a game.

Number one Wu Wenkai was rested and Liu Jun, the 1992 All-England singles champion, was hardly stretched as he demolished Kazuhiro Shimogami 15-7, 15-2 to give China the opening rubber.

But Chen Kang and Chen Hongyong were given a scare by Japan's Koji Miya and Fumihiko Machida in the first game of their doubles clash before emerging 15-12, 15-8 victors.

Up-and-coming young Chinese player Wan Zhangwen quickly sealed the tie, despite playing at half pace, dropping only seven points as he disposed of Hideaki Motoyama in less than 20 minutes.

Zheng Yumin and Huang Zhanzhong crushed Takuya Katayama and Yuzo Kubota 15-8, 15-6 and Deng Xiaojian humbled Seiichi Watanabe 15-7, 15-8 in the two dead rubbers to complete the rout.

In the other Group A match, Malaysia beat Hongkong 5-0 but Wong Wai-lap kept the home crowd happy as he fully extended experienced Foo Kok Keong before losing the opener.

Wong was at his best in the first game, sweeping to a 15-12 win, but his nerves showed and he lost the second 3-15.

The pressure proved too much for Wong at the start of the deciding game as he gave away cheap points with a series of errors, allowing Foo to open up a 6-1 lead.

Wong, though, came storming back and was only one point down when they changed ends. But again experience told as Foo, the world number 16, pulled away and won it 15-9.

Hongkong never had a chance in the other four rubbers but national coach Chan Chi-choi was unperturbed by the humiliation.

''We knew we stood very little chance against either China or Malaysia when the draw was made and our primary target is to beat Japan,'' said Chan.

''We are saving our best for tomorrow's last group match and that is why Chan Kin-ngai did not even play singles tonight.'' Indonesia, favoured to wrest the title from the Chinese, were in a class of their own in Group B in overwhelming Taiwan 5-0.

The Taiwanese, surprise 3-2 victors over seeded South Korea, found the Indonesians much too hot to handle and only Liu En-horng was able to win more than 10 points.

Liu gave Olympic gold medallist Allan Budi Kusuma a scare in the first game by forcing a deuce but the Indonesian number two rose to the occasion and won five points without reply to take the game 18-13. Kusuma took the second 15-5.

Nevertheless, the Taiwanese are still strongly fancied to qualify for the semi-final from Group B along with the Indonesians as their outstanding match is against lowly Thailand tonight.

South Korea made up for their defeat by Taiwan by whipping Thailand 4-1 but must beat Indonesia to reach the semi-finals.