by Mike Grossman

February 21, 1997 (NEW SHUTTLENWS) - At the Asia Cup badminton men's team tournament being held in Jakarta, Indonesia, top seeds Indonesia and Malaysia won the last of their round robin group encounters to take the favored slots in tomorrow's semifinals as the best teams in their groups.

Today's encounters though held uneasy moments for the two seeds.

In the afternnon attraction between Malaysia and Korea, Malaysia's fate was not decided until the final match.

The Malaysians, knowing that they had a tough semifinal regardless of how they did today, chose to rest the team's ace player, Ong Ewe Hock, and to save him for a match against either Fung Permadi of Taiwan, the Grand Prix Finals champions, or Indra Wijaya of Indonesia. They fielded Pang Chen to play in the first singles slot in place of Ong.

Pang was a pleasant surprise for the Malaysian team. Facing the Korean world championships silver medalist, Park Sung Woo, Pang played extremely well. In the first game, he grabbed the early lead to get into a winning position at 12-7. Park then fought back and scored five unanswered points to tie at 12-all. The comeback effort sapped Park's energy reserves though and Pang tallied the next three points to win the first game at 15-12.

In the second, Pang went on the offensive with aggressive attacking play against the tired Park who could not cope with Pang's power shots and often netted his blocks and shots. Pang easily took the second game 15-3, as Park seemed to start saving himself for the semifinals after Pang had taken a large lead.

Malaysia went ahead 1-0 with Pang's victory, but the Korean men's doubles entry of Lee Dong Soo and Yoo Yung Sung was too strong and experienced for the scratch pairing of Tan Kim Her and Lee Wan Wah, specially in the key rallies. Lee and Yoo won the second match 15-12 and 15-11 to tie up the Malaysia-Korea encounter.

That left matters in the hands of two relative newcomers to international play: Wong Choon Han for Malaysia and Han Dong Sung for Korea. The slightly more experienced Wong was the more stable player and he won 15-7 and 15-10 to clinch the Group B banner for Malaysia.

Like the Malaysians, Taiwan chose to rest their ace player, Fung Permadi, and instead fielded Chang Jeng Shyang in the first singles slot against the Indonesians in the evening's feature team encounter.

Chang gave Indonesia's Indra Wijaya all he could handle in the first two games. Chang took a lead in the first game 10-6 as he managed to lift and clear shots to the back of the court where Wijaya was less effective. Wijaya though managed to claw his way back to a 10-all tie and then to win at 15-10.

In the second game, Chang raced to a 7-0 lead. He defended well as Wijaya opened up with powerful smash attacks. Chang's effective defense threw the Indonesian player off the pace and unsettled him. The Taiwanese player managed to keep Wijaya at bay 9-6. Wijaya settled down and caught up to Chang at 11-all. Unlike the first game, though, Wijaya did not have enough left to score again. Chang won the 15-11.

After gathering his wind and getting a stern talking-to from the Indonesian coaching staff during the break, Wijaya came back on court and demolished Chang 15-0.

Indonesia led Taiwan 1-0.

In the second match, world men's doubles number ones Sigit Budiarto and Chandra Wijaya easily beat the under-19 pair fielded by Taiwan, Chien Yu Hsun and Huang Chih Chung 15-6 and 15-7. Sigit and Chandra Wijaya had too much power, speed and experience for Chien and Huang, the silver medalists at the world junior championships.

The Sigit-Wijaya victory clinched the encounter for Indonesia.

In the second singles match, Jeffer Rosobin of Indonesia was surprised by Taiwanese junior player Chien Yu Hsiu. Rosobin took the first game 150-10 but quickly ran out of steam against the younger and apparently more fit Chien. Chien won the next two games 15-10 and 15-8 to end the Indonesia-Taiwan team matchup with a score of 2-1.

In tomorrow's semifinals, Indonesia will play Korea and Malaysia will play Taiwan.

In the other team matchups between also-rans, Japan defeated Hong Kong 2 matches to 1 and escaped the cellar in Group A. Japan's number one singles player Takahiro Suka lost to Tam Kai Chuen 4-15 and 9-15, but the pair of Shinji Ohta and Takuya Takehana beat the tandem of Ma Che Kong and Chow Kin Man 15-7, 15-12, and Yuso Kubota prevailed over Yau Kwun Yuen 10-15, 18-17 and 15-3.

In Group A, India surprised Thailand 2-1 to finish third. Pullela Gopi Chand beat the Thai player Natapol Sarawan 15-11 and 15-1, but the veteran Thai pairing of Pramote Teerawiwatana and Siripong Siripool defeated Jaseel Ismail and Vijaydeep Singh 15-4 and 15-8 to knot the encounter. Sidarth Jain then beat Anupharb Teeraratsakul 15-1 and 15-4 to clinch third place for last-minute invitees India.

** This NEW SHUTTLENWS report is sponsored by YANG YANG BADMINTON EQUIPMENT and their Finland agents, RACKETSERVICE K.Y. (Tel. 9-6801690). **