China and Japan produced a sensational Uber Cup final, with China prevailing by force of their indomitable will to retake the trophy – their 15th title win in 19 finals.
The pivot of their victory was Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan’s astounding two-hour ultramarathon against Yuki Fukushima/Mayu Matsumoto, during which the Chinese weathered stormy waters to sail the ship to safety.
The match elevated the final to rarefied heights, and will be remembered as one of the greatest women’s doubles matches in Uber Cup history.
If there was one phase that distilled the essence of how unyielding Chen and Jia were, it was the late stages of the first game. Chen and Jia’s iron will deflected everything that Matsumoto and Fukushima threw their way – seven game points came and went for the Japanese, with the Chinese simply refusing to give in.
Despite the loss of that game, Fukushima and Matsumoto showed plenty of heart to stay in the match, but they were perhaps too conservative in the exploration of angles or the inventiveness of their attack; what they rode on was their steadiness in the long exchanges. Chen and Jia were the more adventurous, they were unafraid to mix up the probing questions they asked of the Japanese; when it came to the crunch, it was this variety and attacking pressure that the Japanese found hard to contain.
Chen, having hurt herself on match point, willed herself on, and then collapsed in a flood of tears and primal screams once the match was won.
“It was a great match, we had two persistent pairs and we did our best and gave everything. It means so much to the team, there’s a difference between 1-1 and 2-0. We just cheered each other on. It is the final, we didn’t need to hold back anything,” said Jia Yi Fan.
“It’s a very important milestone. We have never played a match this long. Definitely in terms of our mental strength it’s a milestone.”
Akane Yamaguchi had earlier given Japan the lead, repeating her Sudirman Cup win over Chen Yu Fei. Once Chen and Jia had levelled the score, He Bing Jiao consolidated for China, beating Sayaka Takahashi.
The influence of Chen and Jia’s win was apparent in the fourth match too, with scratch pair Huang Dong Ping and Li Wen Mei showing the same stubbornness against Misaki Matsutomo and Nami Matsuyama. The Japanese, inventive and opportunistic, had one game point in the first and no less than four in the second; each time the Chinese dug in, refusing to let the shuttle hit the floor.
China now have the Sudirman Cup and the Uber Cup. On Sunday they contest the Thomas Cup final – a clean sweep is now three wins away.
As for Huang Dong Ping, it has been nothing less than a dream year – Olympic gold, Sudirman Cup, and Uber Cup.
“I’m so happy with these wins, it was a lot of hard work and it just shows us the value of our training during the Covid months,” said Huang.