France’s young and feisty squad proved hard for powerhouses China to shake off in their opening assignment of the BWF Thomas Cup Finals 2022.
The Chinese did finish the tie 5-0, but the French had their moments, fighting toe-to-toe in a couple of matches, and they were not far from earning a point or two.
Epic Opening Match
Displaying skill and grit, and fighting off the disappointment of having missed three game points in the first game, Popov took the match into a third after another tense ending in the second.
The Frenchman was leading 13-8 in the third when the match turned. Lu, having slipped, took a medical timeout, but that was to affect Popov as he soon started cramping.
“It was a tough match, very long – I think the longest match for me on court. One side was very slow and the other side was faster and there were long rallies. He won today physically. Tactically I was better in the third game, I was leading 13-9 and then I had a bad moment physically.
“When he stopped for medical support, my rhythm went out and being out of that rhythm maybe led to the cramps.
“It’s not every year that France has challenged China, and we have a brilliant team coming up with young guns. Today we have the level to compare ourselves, maybe not win every match, but we can make it difficult for China, for sure. And that’s what we showed in the first match.”
Arnaud Merkle led Zhao Jun Peng 15-10 in the second singles before losing his way; Fabien Delrue and William Villeger too stayed close in their opening game against He Ji Ting/Zhou Hao Dong.
After young sensation Alex Lanier had lost 21-14 21-14 to Li Shi Feng, Christo Popov returned with his older brother Toma Junior. The Popovs won the opening game against Ou Xuan Yi and Liu Yu Chen before the Chinese stormed back to seal the tie.
♦ Lee Zii Jia led Malaysia to a 5-0 result over England in Thomas Cup Group D. The Malaysians were stretched in the opening men’s doubles, with Ben Lane/Sean Vendy taking the first game before Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik shot ahead midway through the second and third games. Ng Tze Yong in the second singles was also taken to three games, by Johnnie Torjussen, but overall Malaysia were dominant, winning three of their matches in under 40 minutes.
♦ In the same group, Japan had little trouble in their opening tie against USA, choosing to field Kodai Naraoka and Riku Hatano behind Kenta Nishimoto in singles, and Keiichiro Matsui/Yoshinori Takeuichi as their second doubles pair. The only match that went over 30 minutes was the first singles, with Nishimoto beating Enrico Asuncion 21-13 21-12.
♦ Denmark, fielding their top three singles stars, were similarly untroubled by Algeria in Thomas Cup Group B. In doubles, Kim Astrup was rested, and his regular partner Anders Skaarup Rasmussen was paired with Mathias Christiansen, while the second doubles featured Jeppe Bay and Lasse Molhede.