Japan tops Malaysia for Thomas Cup badminton title
NEW DELHI (AP) — Japan clinched its first Thomas Cup badminton title Sunday as it beat Malaysia 3-2 in a hard-fought final.
Takuma Ueda’s 21-12, 18-21, 21-17 win over Daren Liew sealed the win for Japan, which had made the final for the first time.
“I was under a lot of pressure due to the support for both teams from the stands,” said Ueda, who was cruising at 15-9 in the second game before Liew recovered to stretch the match to three games. “It feels special because everything seemed to be riding on me.”
Ueda led from start to finish in the final game and won the match as Liew hit out toward Ueda’s forehand.
Ueda threw himself to the ground and pumped his fists lying on his back as the rest of the team rushed onto the court in celebration.
“Badminton is not a big sport in Japan but wins in big tournaments will now get noticed back home,” Japan’s Korean coach Park Joo-bong said. “We’ve a promising bunch of players who can do well in the coming years.”
Earlier, Malaysia took the lead through Lee Chong Wei as the top-ranked player scored a comfortable 21-12, 21-16 win over fourth-ranked Kenichi Tago.
Japan restored parity through its doubles pair of Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo and then went ahead through former world junior champion Kento Momoto, who took just 39 minutes to dispose of Chong Wei Feng 21-15, 21-17.
Malaysia won the second doubles to draw level at 2-2 but Ueda kept his cool amid rising tensions to deny Malaysia a sixth title.
Lee, who won the showpiece match of the tie but could not see his team win back the title after 22 years, said he was happy with the performance.
“I prepared myself for a tough match because Tago and his team had beaten China (in the semifinals),” said Lee. “The first match was important and it was not as easy as it may seem.”
Lee added that playing in the final itself was a big achievement for Malaysia.
“This (final) has been a bonus for Malaysia. Before coming here, we were only targeting a semifinal spot,” said Lee, who finished runner-up to Chinese player Lin Dan in the singles at both the 2008 and 2012 Olympics.