China suffered a rare slip at the last edition of the Uber Cup, having failed to make the final for the first time since they started participating in the event in 1984. This time, it will take something special for their opponents to deny them the title, such is the wealth of talent that the team boasts of.
Recent form indicates the magnitude of the task that awaits their main competitors. Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei is the singles spearhead with He Bing Jiao as No.2. The third singles will likely be Wang Zhi Yi, semifinalist at the Indonesia Masters 2020, whose style bears a startling similarity to Chen Yu Fei’s.
China also have formidable doubles, led by Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan, who were in stellar form in Vantaa last week. Although China are missing their regular No.2 pair of Li Yin Hui/Du Yue, they have several options in Liu Xuan Xuan, Xia Yu Ting, Li Wen Mei and Huang Dong Ping.
China’s group mates are Denmark, Malaysia and Canada. Denmark will rely on the experience of Mia Blichfeldt and Line Kjaersfeldt in singles and Maiken Fruergaard/Sara Thygensen in the doubles to carry the team, which also has talented youngsters in Line Christophersen, Amalie Magelund/Freja Ravn and Alexandra Boje/Mette Poulsen.
Canada could spring a surprise or two. Michelle Li returns to the squad having missing the Sudirman Cup; they also have fast-improving 17-year-old Rachel Chan. Rachel Honderich/Kristen Tsai’s last outing was the Tokyo 2020 Olympics, where they pushed world champions Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara in a long three-game battle.
Malaysia will have modest ambitions, for the whole team is young and untested, and will hope to gain as much experience as possible.
Thomas Cup: Another Momota-Lee Duel
Kento Momota and Lee Zii Jia played twice last week at the Sudirman Cup and split honours. Another clash is in the offing as Japan and Malaysia are in Group D with Canada.
Japan will once again look to Momota to lead the way, with Kenta Nishimoto, Kanta Tsuneyama and Kodai Naraoka the other singles players. In the absence of doubles mainstays Takeshi Kamura, Keigo Sonoda and Hiroyuki Endo, Japan will look to Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi and Akira Koga/Taichi Saito.
Lee Zii Jia himself admitted that the Malaysian team wasn’t too ambitious about its chances at the Thomas Cup, given the inexperience of the squad. Lee and Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik are the aces in the team, and it will be interesting to see how well the others, such Cheam June Wei and Ng Tze Yong and Sholeh Aidil, fare.
For Canada, Jason Anthony Ho-Shue returns after having missed the Sudirman Cup, and that will give the Canadians options in singles and doubles.
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