KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia (AFP) — Malaysia's Lee Chong Wei made sure of a semi-final berth in the inaugural World Super Series Masters Finals here Thursday, winning his first two Group A matches in style.
The world number one overcame his toughest group opponent, Peter Gade of Denmark, 21-19, 21-17 in 39 minutes even though he declared afterwards that he was not in his best form.
Earlier in the day, the top seed had an easy opener against compatriot Wong Choong Hann. Lee hardly broke sweat, needing only 23 minutes to dispose of the ageing Wong 21-14, 21-13.
Gade had earlier beaten Hong Kong's Chan Yan Kit 21-15, 21-17. He plays Wong next and should have no difficulty overcoming the Malaysian to secure the second semi-final berth from Group A.
Lee rounds up the Group A fixtures with a match against Chan. The tournament is being held in Kota Kinabalu in the eastern state of Sabah on Borneo island, and offers a total purse of 500,000 dollars.
"The fans have been very supportive of me and I aim to give my best," said Lee, who has tipped his opponent in Saturday's semi-finals to be one of the Indonesians, Sony Dwi Kuncoro or Taufik Hidayat.
The pair clashed in a Group B 59-minute three-game thriller here Thursday which eventually saw the younger Kuncoro clinching victory.
Hidayat, who returned from a wrist injury only a week ago, delighted the crowd with a 25-23 win in the first game but Kuncoro had an easy 21-14 victory in the second and made few mistakes to win the third game.
Kuncoro went on to beat England's last-minute entry Andrew Smith in another three-game thriller 21-12, 22-24, 21-12 to confirm his slot in the semi-finals.
In the women's singles, third-seeded Wang Chen of Hong Kong caused a stir when she beat compatriot and top seed Zhou Mi 21-12, 21-15 in a Group A match.
However, Zhou got back to winning ways later when she beat Xu Huaiwen of Germany 21-11, 21-16, while Wang heads the group after a 18-21, 21-6, 21-10 win over Japan's Hirayama Yu.
Crowd favourite Wong Mew Choo put up a gritty fight against the fourth seed Pi Hongyan of France.
The Frenchwoman won the first game easily at 21-12 then Wong, with the crowd behind her, fought back gamely to equal the score with 22-20 in the second.
In the decider, both women brought out their best to thrill the crowd before Pi capitalized on some unforced errors by the Malaysian to wrap up the match 22-20.
Wong can still qualify for the semi-finals, provided she can beat the second seed Tine Rasmussen Friday morning and later in the day overcome India's Saina Nehwal.
Rasmussen started off with a fine 21-18, 21-14 win over Nehwal.
In the women's doubles, top seeds Chin Eei Hui/Wong Pei Tty of Malaysia got off to a flying start when they beat third-seeded pair Lena Frier Kristiansen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark 21-19, 21-17.
In the men's doubles, the Malaysian pair of Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif/Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari cleared their first hurdle, beating Danish pair Anders Kristiansen/Simon Mollyhus 21-18, 21-15.
And top seeds Markis Kido/Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia disposed of the veteran pair of Tony Gunawan/Candra Wijaya 21-10, 19-21, 21-18.