KUNSHAN: Hopes of a repeat of the 2014 runners-up achievement in New Delhi evaporated as Denmark came from behind to wreck Malaysia’s dream with a 3-2 win in a gripping semi-final tie at the Kunshan Sports Centre Gymnasium on Friday.
The Malaysian camp looked like they were getting ready to celebrate after Lee Chong Wei and Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong won the first singles and first doubles contests.
Chong Wei kept his superior record intact against reigning European champion Viktor Axelsen by winning 23-21, 21-18. The world No. 2 has yet to lose to the lanky Dane in nine meetings.
Birthday boys V Shem-Wee Kiong extended the lead by stopping scratch pair Mathias Boe-Mads Conrad Petersen 21-18, 21-18.
There were smiles in the Malaysian camp as they sensed the growing possibility of a meeting with old foes Indonesia in the final, but the Danes had other ideas.
A pumped-up Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin paid the price for starting too fast against Hans-Kristian Vittinghus and was caught flat-footed as the Dane stepped on the gas.
It did not help that the Chinese crowd started to get behind the Danish team, whom they considered the underdogs.
Iskandar, who had been playing well until Thursday, began to make unforced errors as he grew impatient and lost 18-21, 18-21.
Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong did well to hold up against the much younger Danish second doubles pair of Kim Astrup-Anders Skaarup Rasmussen at the start, but it did not last long.
The veteran pair ran out of steam to go down 21-10, 8-21, 13-21 and leave Malaysia's fate in Chong Wei Feng’s hands.
Despite a valiant fightback from 8-14 down in the second game, Wei Feng could not prevent a steadier Emil Holst from winning 21-15, 21-18 to spark off wild celebrations among the Danish players.
Said Wei Feng: "There was a lot of pressure on me to win the deciding match. I followed his rhythm in the early stages and that was my mistake.
"I tried to chase back in the second but it was hard to counter his attacks. I did my best but I guess it was not good enough."
It was the sixth defeat inflicted by Denmark in 17 encounters in the world team event since the tournament’s inception in 1948.
At the last Finals in New Delhi in 2014, Malaysia beat the Danes 3-1 in the quarter-finals. Malaysia went all the way to the final before going down 3-2 to Japan.
Chong Wei was philosophical in defeat.
“We had our chances, but we could not finish them off,” he said.
“I can’t blame anyone ... we came as a team. I tried my best to win the first point but we know it was always going to be 50-50 against Denmark.”
The final tomorrow will see Denmark aiming to lift their first Thomas Cup trophy while Indonesia will be seeking to regain the silverware they last won in 2002.
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