Badminton: Danish delight in historic Thomas Cup victory

Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (left) pointing to the Danish flag on his shirt in celebration following his 21-15, 21-7 victory over Indonesia's Ihsan Maulana Mustofa to seal Denmark's first Thomas Cup triumph. The Denmark team (above) celebrating with the
Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (left) pointing to the Danish flag on his shirt in celebration following his 21-15, 21-7 victory over Indonesia's Ihsan Maulana Mustofa to seal Denmark's first Thomas Cup triumph.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE
Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (left) pointing to the Danish flag on his shirt in celebration following his 21-15, 21-7 victory over Indonesia's Ihsan Maulana Mustofa to seal Denmark's first Thomas Cup triumph. The Denmark team (above) celebrating with the
The Denmark team (above) celebrating with their gold medals.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

Vittinghus' win in deciding third singles tie makes Danes first-ever European winners

KUNSHAN (China) • Denmark beat Indonesia 3-2 in the Thomas Cup final yesterday, securing the nation's first world badminton team championship after racking up eight second-place finishes over the decades.

Hans-Kristian Vittinghus led the Danes to victory in the fifth and final match of the tie on the back of strong singles performances from fourth-ranked Viktor Axelsen and world No. 5 Jan Jorgensen.

Denmark are the first European team to win the Thomas Cup.

"Ever since we came here, since last week, I've been dreaming about being the deciding factor in a final," said Vittinghus.

"I really appreciate that my team-mates put me in this position where I had a chance to win the Cup for Denmark."

In the opening match, European champion Axelsen kicked off the final by controlling the net as he exploited his height with overhead smashes and diving saves to take the first game.

MAKING MERRY AS THE DANES WOULD

A lot of beer, a lot of champagne and a lot of shouting and dancing.

HANS-KRISTIAN VITTINGHUS, Denmark's third singles player, on the team's celebrations after winning their first-ever Thomas Cup title.

World No. 8 Tommy Sugiarto grabbed the early lead in the second, but the Dane proved too strong, clinching the match 21-17, 21-18.

Following the win, Axelsen sprinted to the sidelines, tossing his shirt and racket into the roaring audience - a scene that would be repeated by his team-mates with each successive win.

"I was really nervous during the game, but I managed to stay calm in the end and that's why I won," said the 22-year-old former world junior champion.

Second-ranked doubles team Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan evened the score with a 21-18, 21-13 win over Mads Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding.

Jorgensen put the Danes ahead again by taking down 19-year-old Anthony Ginting 21-17, 21-12.

But the Indonesians refused to go down quietly, battling for every point as they pursued a record-extending 14th Thomas Cup title.

Doubles pair Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi clawed back the initiative for their team, forcing the fifth match of the series after dispensing with Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen 21-16, 21-14.

"At the beginning of the game we felt nervous because Denmark led 2-1," said Suwardi. "Our strength is equal with Denmark so we never felt like underdogs."

But the revival proved temporary. Vittinghus, who also staved off the team's imminent defeat in the semi-finals against Malaysia, was in constant motion. He fired repeated overheads and drop shots with growing certainty, as he overpowered Ihsan Maulana Mustofa.

With their first Thomas Cup in hand after Vittinghus sealed his 21-15, 21-7 victory with a smash down the line, the Danes rushed to the court and danced wildly as the Chinese fans stood up and cheered in approval.

"My confidence grew throughout the match. I was nervous in the beginning but I think I handled it pretty well," said Vittinghus, adding that post-match celebrations will likely include "a lot of beer, a lot of champagne and a lot of shouting and dancing".

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 23, 2016, with the headline 'Danish delight in Thomas Cup'. Print Edition | Subscribe