Denmark were, somewhat unexpectedly, taken the distance by Germany in Thomas Cup Group B, and Hans-Kristian Solberg Vittinghus had to play a familiar role again in saving the tie in the fifth match.
The 35-year-old, whose career-defining moment was winning the fifth match of the Thomas Cup 2016 against Indonesia, was required to deliver the winning point again.
Denmark were 1-2 down after the third match, with Mark Lamsfuss/Marvin Seidel and Fabian Roth having taken the fight to the hosts. Denmark’s second doubles of Mathias Christiansen/Frederik SØgaard brought them level, and then it was between Vittinghus and Matthias Kicklitz.
It was a role that required a certain immunity to pressure, and it was a role that Vittinghus had replayed in his head for many months. Pressed into service, he quickly dismantled Kicklitz 21-15 21-8, although many in the audience may have skipped a heartbeat or two when he was 6-10 down in the first.
“It’s just amazing to be in that situation again. It’s saturating, and this is the exact situation I’ve been thinking about for one and a half years. It’s the one thing that I’ve been wanting to do. I want to be in these decisive moments. And I actually felt pretty calm on court today because I’ve been here before and I can handle this situation. It gave me the sense of calmness and security on court, just to play my game. I know I was down in that first game but I still felt I had my emotions under control and I knew my gameplan. I had watched his match the day before, it was kind of the same game where he was playing well in the first game but I knew if I got my game working it probably would go my way.”
Walking out on court at the Thomas Cup on home ground was a whole new experience even for the veteran of many a battle.
“It’s obviously amazing. It’s a bit late, walking out on court 11 in the evening but I’m very pleased and honoured that so many people stayed back to watch it, it’s a normal working day tomorrow (Tuesday), so it’s quite late for the spectators but it was an amazing atmosphere and I also tried to give them some energy by showing some emotions and fighting with everything. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I’m going to soak it all in.
“I’m feeling very good, very confident. I’ve had a very good stint of training, ever since the Olympics when I came back home as commentator, I was in horrible shape after two weeks of not doing anything apart from talking about badminton, but since then I’ve been working really hard. I feel great, I feel calm and ready for this situation again. This is exactly what I’ve been working for and dreaming about, so if I’m needed on the team, this is what I’m needed to go out and do and I’m happy about it.”
Despite winning the tie for Denmark, and Rasmus Gemke having lost his match, Vittinghus was gracious enough to expect Gemke ahead of him for the third singles in the coming tie against Korea for top place in the group.
“To be honest I don’t expect to play. I still think Gemke is the third choice because he deserves that with the results he’s produced in the lats couple of years. There’s no reason to lose faith in him, he’s playing better and better and it’s good for him also to get the experience. I don’t expect to play but if I’m needed I’ll be ready. That’s my role in the team. If I’m called upon, I will deliver the goods.”
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