The Thomas Cup final held 25 May 2014 was one of the most dramatic events in the history of the World Men’s Team Championships.
China had dominated the previous decade, winning five successive Thomas Cup crowns, but in a sensational semifinal session, Japan trounced them 3-0. The Japanese charge was led by Kenichi Tago, whose opening match victory over Chen Long was built upon by Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa, before Kento Momota showed steady nerves against Du Pengyu.
Lin Dan, slated to play third singles against Sho Sasaki, could only watch helplessly from the sidelines.
In the other semifinal, Malaysia proved too strong for Indonesia, wrapping up the tie 3-0.
Kenichi Tago was in inspirational form, having beaten Chen Long, Jan O Jorgensen and Rajiv Ouseph in previous matches, but the opening match of the final was almost a foregone conclusion as he was up against Lee Chong Wei. The Malaysian legend shot past the Japanese in 44 minutes to give his country the lead. Lee had once again led admirably from the front, winning all six of his matches to earn a shot at a title that he had never won.
The first doubles between Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa and Hoon Tien How/Tan Boon Heong was on a razor’s edge before the Japanese edged ahead, 21-19 in the third game.
And then, with Kento Momota showing great maturity to hold off the previously unbeaten Chong Wei Feng in straight games, the momentum swung Japan’s way.
There was however another twist, as Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong outgunned Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda to level the tie for Malaysia.
It was down to Takuma Ueda for Japan and Liew Daren for Malaysia. The lead shifted hands, with fortunes swinging one way and then the other. Liew, with his attacking game, was the more adventurous, but at the very end, and with the pressure bearing down, the Malaysian misfired a couple of smashes. That was all it took for the steady Ueda to see Japan through to their greatest men’s team triumph in history, and he was soon buried under an avalanche of his teammates’ bodies, while Liew stood by, inconsolable in defeat.