NANNING: School girl An Se-young’s fairytale run came to a tearful end on Thursday as holders South Korea crashed out to Thailand in the quarter-finals of the Sudirman Cup.
Thailand will play hosts and hot favourites China in the last four of badminton’s prestigious mixed-team world championship in Nanning.
An only turned 17 in February but is already making a name for herself, winning the New Zealand Open earlier this month and then beating Taiwan’s world number one Tai Tzuying on Wednesday.
But the teenager, ranked 50th, finally ran out of steam against former world champion Ratchanok Intanon, going down 21-15, 21-17 in 53 minutes as Thailand defeated South Korea 3-1.
Ratchanok’s victory sealed the tie for the Thais and she fell to her knees, before being mobbed by her jubilant team-mates.
The beaten An was overcome with emotion afterwards in the press interview area, as she had been after beating top-ranked Tai a day earlier.
“I think I was a bit nervous today so I had problems adjusting to the game,” said the teenager, denying that she was tired from the exertion of bursting onto the scene in recent weeks.
“No, that’s not the case, I just didn’t perform.”
The Koreans stunned 10-time champions China in the last edition of the Sudirman Cup, in 2017, but were missing their top man and woman singles players in Nanning.
China will be strongly fancied to defeat Thailand in the semi-finals on Saturday in front of their home crowd.
The hosts reached the last four with a 3-1 win over Denmark.
The Danes grabbed their solitary point thanks to former world champion Viktor Axelsen.
Now ranked third in the world after injuries derailed his progress, the strapping 25-year-old defeated reigning Olympic champion Chen Long in a high-quality encounter.
Chen went down 21-11, 21-18 but Denmark’s hopes were short-lived.
On Friday in the other quarter-finals, Japan face Malaysia and Taiwan play Indonesia.
“Japan have been hailed as one of the favourites and are the top seeds,” said Malaysia’s coaching director Wong Choong Hann.
“This is the time for our players to show that they can face the best.”