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Badminton: South Korea survives German scare in Thomas Cup

Hwang Jong-Soo won the decisive fifth match to steer South Korea to a 3-2 win over a fighting Germany on the opening day of the Thomas Cup badminton team championships.

NEW DELHI: Hwang Jong-Soo won the decisive fifth match to steer South Korea to a 3-2 win over a fighting Germany on the opening day of the Thomas Cup badminton team championships in New Delhi on Sunday.

The Koreans, runners-up to China in the previous edition in 2012, were facing an embarrassing setback when Germany made it 2-2 by winning the first two singles in between two defeats in the doubles.

Hwang, however, kept his cool amid rising tension in the Korean camp, to defeat Lukas Schmidt 21-15, 21-16 in the decider and clinch an important win for his team in group C.

Germany's top player Marc Zwiebler said his team's focus had been on the singles since the Koreans were so strong in doubles.

"We knew from the start that we had to win all three singles to beat them," he said. "But this tie has raised our confidence and I hope we will do well in our remaining matches."

Meanwhile, runaway favourites China opened their campaign with fluent 5-0 wins in both the Thomas Cup and the women's Uber Cup competitions.

World champion Lin Dan went on court after China, seeking a record sixth consecutive Thomas Cuptitle, had already run up a 3-0 lead over France. He brushed aside Lucas Claerbout 21-5, 21-11.

The Chinese women, who overpowered Russia in group W, refused to call themselves favourites to win an eighth Uber Cup title in the last nine competitions since 1998.

"Winning one tie is not enough, there is a long way to go in the tournament," world number two Wang Yihan said after winning the second singles. "There are many tough teams to play."

Men's world number one Lee Chong Wei led Malaysia to a 4-1 win over hosts India in group C, with R Gurusaidutt preventing a clean sweep with a three-game win over Daren Liew in the fifth match.

In group B matches, Denmark sailed past Hong Kong 4-1 and Japan beat England by a similar margin.

The Danes were inspired by world number three Jan O Jorgensen's 21-11, 21-16 win over Yun Hu in the opening singles, but Viktor Axelsen lost the second singles to Nan Wei in straight games.

Japan overcame a scare against England when their top player, the fourth-ranked Kenichi Tago, lost the opening game to Rajiv Ouseph before fighting back to win 9-21, 22-20, 21-13.

In the women's event, Indonesia and South Korea began group X with identical 5-0 routs of Australia and Singapore. England squeezed past Taiwan 3-2 in group W.

In group Y, the Indian girls blanked Canada 5-0.

Both the Thomas and Uber Cup events this year have been expanded to 16 nations from 12 in previous years, with four preliminary groups sending two teams each into the quarter-finals.

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