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Former kingpins Indonesia scrap past South Korea

Record winners Indonesia came back from the brink to get past South Korea in the quarter-finals of the Thomas Cup qualifiers, leaving the latter to fight for their lives in the playoffs.

Indonesia, who have won the tournament 13 times, but not since 2002, overcame a 2-0 deficit to defeat their rivals 3-2 to secure a place in the tournament proper, which will be held in Wuhan, China from May 20-27.

They will be joined by Malaysia, Japan as well as hosts China who all made it to the semi-finals. Four tickets are up for grabs in the Asian qualifiers and with China already qualified as hosts, it means South Korea will now have to fight it out with Thailand, Taipei and India for the last slot.

In the Uber Cup, the three-time champions Indonesian were crushed 3-0 by China in the quarter-finals, but will still have a chance of reaching the Finals via the playoffs.

Joining China in the semi-finals and earning automatic tickets to the Uber Cup Finals, which will be held at the same venue and dates of the Thomas Cup are Taipei, Japan and Thailand.

Indonesia will playoff against Malaysia, Hong Kong and Singapore for the last slot to the Finals.

The Indonesia-South Korea tie was the only one in the Thomas Cup to go the distance as China, Malaysia and Japan all registered 3-0 victories in the quarter-finals.

China crushed Thailand with Chen Long, Chai Biao-Guo Zhendong and Du Pengyu all scoring straight games victories. The Chinese are playing in the qualifiers to earn ranking points ahead of the cut-off for the Olympics and look certain to top the qualifiers.

Lee Hyun Il gave South Korea a perfect start when he outfought SEA Games champion Simon Santoso 14-21, 21-15, 21-16 in 65 minutes.

It got better for the Koreans when Yoo Yeon Seong-Ko Sung Hyun tamed Bona Septano-Mohammad Ahsan 18-21, 22-20, 21-19 in 46 minutes to leave Indonesia’s fate hanging in the balance.

Former world and Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat (above left), who has been struggling of late, but who somehow always seems to find his best form in the Thomas Cup, pulled a point back when he outclassed Shon Wan Ho 21-11, 21-15.

The victory inspired his teammates and reigning Olympic champions Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan, who like Taufik have been off colour in recent months, yet they stormed past Lee Yong Dae-Shin Baek Choel (above right), 19-21, 21-17, 21-17 to level the scores.

That set-up a deciding match between Tommy Sugiarto (left), and Hong Ji Hoon and it was the former who kept his cool to secure a 21-7, 16-21, 21-8    victory to send Indonesia into the semi-finals.

Despite their loss, South Korea should be confident of getting the last ticket to the Finals.

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