Hungry Japan end Uber Cup drought

Team Japan pose on the podium with their trophy after winning the Uber Cup Finals 2018 badminton match against team Thailand at the Thomas and Uber Cup 2018 in Bangkok, on May 26, 2018.
Team Japan pose on the podium with their trophy after winning the Uber Cup Finals 2018 badminton match against team Thailand at the Thomas and Uber Cup 2018 in Bangkok, on May 26, 2018. PHOTO: EPA-EFE

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."


Japan team captain Ayaka Takahashi holding up the Uber Cup after they cruised past hosts Thailand in yesterday's final in Bangkok. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

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.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

CHINA V JAPAN

Thomas Cup final

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on May 27, 2018, with the headline 'Hungry Japan end Uber Cup drought'. Print Edition | Subscribe