BANGKOK • Japan's women shuttlers clinched the Uber Cup yesterday, breezing by surprise finalists Thailand 3-0 in Bangkok to end a 37-year wait to regain the title.
The victory was also a major confidence boost ahead of the Olympics which Japan will host in Tokyo in two years, according to their South Korean coach Park Joo Bong.
"I was worried about the atmosphere, but the team took the pressure and were hungry to win," he said, adding the team are on the right track for the Olympics.
With a team stacked with high-ranked players in both the singles and doubles, Japan made light work of the hosts, who entered the final for the first time after stunning 14-time winners China 3-2 in Friday's semi-finals.
World No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi got Japan off to a flyer, dulling the boisterous partisan home crowd with a 21-15, 21-19 win over Ratchanok Intanon, blending deft touches at the net with patience in the rallies and power shots.
The Thai world No. 4 conceded that she lost concentration after bickering with the umpire early in the second game over his refusal to grant a review, as she was too late in her request.
She told reporters: "I did not feel very good (after) I had a fight with the umpire... because he did not believe me (over the review). I'm sad, I wanted to get the first point for my team."
World No. 2 doubles pair Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota stormed to the second point of the match, winning their tie 21-18, 21-12 over Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Puttita Supajirakul.
The writing was on the wall for the hosts and Nozomi Okuhara made light work (21-12, 21-9) of a visibly tired Nitchaon Jindapol to seal victory.
Thailand celebrated the runners-up medal as a sign of progress for a young side growing in confidence as the Asian Games approach.
Said their Indonesian coach Rexy Mainaky: "Skills-wise our players are world-class, but to go to the next level we have to do more. We will come back on this and evaluate what we need to add."
China, absent from the women's final for the first time, have a chance to redeem national pride in the Thomas Cup today when they play Japan.
CHINA V JAPAN
Thomas Cup final
StarHub Ch201, 2pm