Malaysia entered the final of the Thomas Cup for the first time since 2002, with a stunningly one-sided win over Indonesia today.
The Li-Ning BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals moved to its climactic finish at the Siri Fort Complex, New Delhi, with Malaysia outplaying Indonesia, while Japan’s women emulated their men’s team in making the title round. Japan recovered from 0-2 down to beat India 3-2 in the Uber Cup semi-final.
A Malaysian fairy tale played out at the venue as the pre-tournament underdogs packed off the strong contenders. World No.1 Lee Chong Wei (left) was expected to take the first point for Malaysia and he did, after shaking off stubborn resistance from Tommy Sugiarto in the first game, 21-19 21-13.
The match that swung the tie decisively in Malaysia’s favour was the doubles. World champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan were overwhelming favourites against the scratch pair of Tan Boon Heong and Hoon Thien How (featured image), but the Malaysians turned the match on its head with an astute tactical display.
Ahsan and Setiawan (above) struggled to control the proceedings with their jabs and placements as they usually do and even though they enjoyed a mid-match revival, they lagged behind in the third. They had one chance to take the match but they missed it, before Hoon and Tan converted their second match point, 21-19 8-21 23-21.
Setiawan struggled to explain the loss. “I don’t know what went wrong. Malaysia went all out and we were under pressure in the third game.”
Chong Wei Feng (right) had had an exceptional tournament with four successive wins and was one of the factors responsible for Malaysia’s entry into the semi-finals. For Indonesia, all hopes were pinned on Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka. Unfortunately for Rumbaka, he could not reverse Chong’s golden run of form.
Displaying silken touch and moving with feline grace, Chong Wei Feng outclassed Rumbaka from the start. Whatever the Indonesian did was countered and sent back with interest. In the second game Rumbaka staged a comeback from 11-16 to 16-all, but that’s about as far as he got. Chong completed his fifth straight win, 21-10 21-17.
“I was prepared for any situation before the match,” Chong Wei Feng said. “We just told ourselves to fight all the way. The team spirit was very good and that was one of the reasons for our success so far.”
India, powered by the resurgent Saina Nehwal and the combative PV Sindhu, went 2-0 up. While Nehwal had a straightforward victory over Minatsu Mitani (21-12 21-13), Sindhu’s match against Sayaka Takahashi was an edge-of-the-seat thriller which mirrored her previous win against Indonesia’s Bellaetrix Manuputty.
The advantage swung one way and then the other with both digging deep in the face of adversity. Takahash reversed a 3-8 deficit with nine straight points, but Sindhu continued to show the indefatigable spirit for which she is known. The Indian saved one match point at 19-20 and missed four of her own before finally converting her fifth: 19-21 21-18 26-24.
“It was almost the same kind of match as yesterday,” Sindhu said. “The lead kept shifting between us. When I was down 8-12 in the third, my coach told me to fight hard, to not worry about the win, but to fight every point. She played very well; it could have been anybody’s game.”
The raucous home crowd sniffed a historic victory when Jwala Gutta (left) and Ashwini Ponnappa powered to a second-game win against Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi. The Japanese pair, however, had a wealth of experience in similar situations and exploited the chinks in the Indian combination to triumph 21-12 20-22 21-16.
Japan (below) were favourites in the remaining two matches and they did not let the opportunity slip. Veteran Eriko Hirose was too crafty for Thulasi PC (21-14 21-15), while established pair Miyuki Maeda and Reika Kakiiwa did not take too long to figure out the answers to India’s scratch combination of Saina Nehwal and Sindhu PV, 21-14 21-11.
* India’s loss in the third match left them with little hope of upsetting Japan. Jwala Gutta took the blame for the loss, even as a crestfallen Ponnappa struggled with words. “It was my fault,” admitted Gutta. “I was thinking too much. I saw a lot of openings but could not convert them, I made too many mistakes. I let them get into rhythm.”
* Anticipating a difficult final against defending champions China, veteran Miyuki Maeda said: “Even though the result will be important, we just want to focus on playing well. We haven’t played Zhao Yunlei/Wang Xiaoli as a pair, but Zhao is good at the front and Wang hits hard from the back. Our defensive game will have to be very good.”
For today’s results, click here.