Malaysia's Lee thru to semifinals in badminton

Aug. 14, 2008, 1:33 a.m. (ET)

BEIJING (AP) Lee Chong Wei kept Malaysia's best hope for an Olympic gold medal alive Thursday with a straight-sets win over Sony Dwi Kuncoro of Indonesia in the quarterfinals of men's singles at the Olympic badminton tournament.

Lee, who is second-seeded, cruised to a 21-9, 21-11 win over Kuncoro to set up a semifinal showdown on Friday with either third-seeded Bao Chunlai of China or Lee Hyun-il of South Korea.

"Sony didn't play very well today," Lee said. "Maybe he was nervous. I've played him before and I know he can play better than that."

Lee's powerful smashes and accurate drop shots were too much for the sixth-seeded Kuncoro.

Lee is bidding to win Malaysia's first gold medal in the Olympics. His girlfriend, Wong Mew Choo, lost in the quarterfinals of the women's singles on Wednesday, but was in the stands Thursday to watch Lee's match.

To win Malaysia's first gold of the Olympics, Lee will likely have to defeat Lin Dan of China. The top-seeded player in men's singles faces Peter Gade of Denmark later Thursday and has looked strong so far.

"Lin is in very good form," Lee said. "But I'm not thinking ahead. Right now, I'm just focusing on the semifinals."

Lee has beaten Lin twice recently - at the Thomas Cup team competition in Jakarta in May and at the 2007 Japan Open.

Lee was knocked out in the last 16 at Athens four years ago.

In an earlier match, fourth-seeded Chen Jin of China downed Taiwan's Hsieh Yu-hsing 21-8, 21-14 to advance to the semis where he will face the winner of the match between Lin and Gade.

In mixed doubles, the top-seeded pair of Liliyana Natsir and Nova Widianto of Indonesia defeated Thailand's Sudket Prapakamol and Saralee Thoungthongkam 21-13, 21-19 to advance to the semifinals.

China's He Hanbin and Yu Yang defeated Poland's Nadiezda Kostiuczyk and Robert Mateusiak 22-20, 23-21 to also advance.