With curtains drawn on the stage of the TotalEnergies BWF Thomas and Uber Cup Finals 2022, here are the top takeaways from eight days of intense action:
India’s Status as a Badminton Power
For a nation that has participated in numerous Thomas Cup campaigns beginning with the very first edition in 1948-49, India’s record at the team event over the years was modest. Better known for individual accomplishments, Indian badminton had its best ever day with the Thomas Cup victory. With the core of the team still in their early 20s, it does look like the country can hold its place among the top nations for some time to come.
Team More than the Sum of its Parts
The dynamics of team event competition needed no better illustration than the Uber Cup final between China and Korea. On paper China were the overwhelming favourites, without any discernible chinks in their armour. Yet, An Se Young’s heroic display in the opening singles appeared to inspire her teammates. The two doubles pairs ensured that the tie would go to a decider, in which recent Asian champion Wang Zhi Yi was favourite against world No.46 Sim Yu Jin. However, with Sim playing the match of her life, and pressure on Wang to defend China’s title, Korea steadily gained momentum. The upset of the event unfolded and Korea were again crowned champions after 12 years.
Track Record Isn’t Everything
Team events have often thrown up surprises, and there were a few instances at this edition of the Thomas & Uber Cup Finals too. Korea didn’t have the most inspiring look about its Thomas Cup team, but they nearly took Denmark out in the quarterfinals. Heo Kwang Hee played at a sizzling pace against Viktor Axelsen, only losing 21-19 in the third. New combination Kang Min Hyuk/Seo Seung Jae beat Kim Astrup/Mathias Christiansen before Jeon Hyeok Jin pulled off one of the surprises of the event with a straight games win over Anders Antonsen. Choi Sol Gyu/Kim Won Ho had three opportunities to take Korea into the semifinals, but a combination of luck and tenacity by Frederik Sogaard/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen turned the tie around.
Return of Goh Jin Wei
Nobody was quite certain of how Goh Jin Wei would perform at the Uber Cup. The former World Junior champion had returned to top-level competition at the Korea Open in April, after a couple of years of competing at lower-run events and away from the spotlight. Yet, in just the two opportunities she got at the Uber Cup, Goh gave a great account of her abilities, beating Line Christophersen and challenging Ratchanok Intanon in a three-game battle. Her form should be good news for all fans, and particularly for Malaysia, who have missed a women’s singles spearhead.
Christo Popov’s Incredible Grit
A 1 hour 58 minute match in men’s singles is nearly unheard of. Suffering cramps after the third game interval against Lu Guang Zu, Christo Popov could barely stand through the last few rallies – yet, the young Frenchman not only completed the match, he returned for the fifth with Toma Junior and the brothers even took a game off Liu Yu Chen and Ou Xuan Yi. The next day he was back for both the singles and doubles against Denmark.
Badminton’s Viral Moments
The Thomas and Uber Cup Finals had several great matches, but the two involving ‘Ben’ Nanthakarn Yordphaisong and ‘Oat’ Chaloempon Charoenkitamorn became social media hits for the sheer acrobatic ability of the two Thais. Ben and Oat’s dives to retrieve from impossible positions turned them into viral stars, with Ben conferred the title ‘Ben Bindai’ – Thai for “Ben Can Fly” – by fans.
Indonesia’s Women Impress
Indonesia arrived at the Uber Cup with a young squad of virtually unknown players. With their seniors on duty at the SEA Games, the young players were given their first big test and punched way above their weight. Teenagers Komang Ayu Cahya Dewi and Bilqis Prasista were the standout performers – Cahya Dewi beat Qi Xuefei and Yvonne Li, while Prasista shocked Akane Yamaguchi in straight games. Their progress will be keenly followed.
Momota’s Search for Form
Not so long ago, Kento Momota was leading his team to unprecedented heights. At this Thomas Cup the Japanese ace looked unsure and inconsistent – falling tamely to Lee Zii Jia and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting. A win over Chou Tien Chen somewhat salvaged his campaign, but fans will be hoping for Momota to regain the confidence of his prime years, when the first singles point was virtually assured for Japan.