Japanese end Dragon march

Japanese end Dragon march

Japanese end Dragon march

Nineteen-year-old Kento Momoto emerged the hero as Japan pulled off a shocking 3-0 win against giants China to enter their maiden Thomas Cup final at the Sirifort Sports Complex on Friday. Japan thus snapped China’s five-year winning streak.

No team has won the title for the six consecutive times and nine-time champions China, who have been unbeaten since 2004, were in line for that record. Before them, 13-time winner Indonesia had won five times in a row, which ended in 2004, interestingly, at the hands of China.

Japan now meet Malaysia, who beat Indonesia 3-0, in the final.

Kenichi Tago, attacking with persistence, led the way for Japan by pulling off a 21-13, 21-11 surprise win over World No 2 Chen Long. The Japanese pair of Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo further piled misery on the defending champions when they beat Biao Chai and Wei Hong 22-20, 21-19.

With Japan 2-0 up, China found itself facing unfamiliar pressure. With great Lin Dan, waiting for his turn in the third singles, the dragon nation needed to pull off the second singles to stay afloat. The responsibility fell on the shoulders of World No 6 Du Pengyu who faced an upcoming Japanese Momoto, ranked 14. Momoto, though, was not to be awed by the occasion. After losing a close first game, he came storming in the second and third. He was fearless and didn’t shy away from taking chances.

At 20-12 in the decider he held eight match points. He lost two but sealed it on the third when a return from Pengyu fell out. The 75-minute battle left him sapped of energy and he fell down on the floor after carving out one the biggest victories of his career and the Japanese team.

“We came here prepared to challenge every team. We are the new generation and we knew China could be beaten,” Momoto , a 2012 world junior champion, said.“We started as underdogs and had nothing to lose today, we knew we had to win the first three points (first and second singles and first doubles) as China would be dangerous after that.”

In the Uber Cup, China, however, maintained their dominance, blanking Korea 3-0. China now awaits the winner of the match between Japan and India.India led 2-1 after Saina Nehwal eased past Mimatsu Mitani 21-12, 21-13, and PV Sindhu pulled off another cliffhanger, this time against Sayaka Takahashi 19-21, 21-18, 26-24 to make it 2-0 for India.  

However, Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa went down fighting against World No 4 Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi 12-21, 22-20, 16-21.

It needed Saina 42 minutes to give India the winning start, yet again. World No 12 Mitani had a compact game and controlled the long rallies by cleverly mixing the pace. Saina kept the points short and went for the kill at the first opportunity. It worked as she comfortably closed out the match.

Sindhu, however, found herself ill at ease against the talented Takahashi, an opponent two rungs below her at 13. 

The light-footed Japanese produced such teasing angles and deceptive strokes that Sindhu often found herself stranded. Her forehand crosscourt drops were just too hot to handle.  The Indian was error-prone and struggled to gauge her returns but hung on tenaciously.

The Indian rallied to make it a game all. In a see-saw decider, she led 17-13  but the Japanese caught up with her by winning four points in a row and soon held a match point at 20-19. Sindhu saved it and went on to hold four match points before sealing the victory on fifth.

Results (semifinals): Thomas Cup: Japan bt China 3-0 (Kenichi Tago bt Chen Long 21-13, 21-11; Kenichi Hayakawa/ Hiroyuki Endo bt Biao Chai/ Wei Hong 22-20, 21-19; Kento Momoto bt Du Pengyu 23-25, 21-18, 21-14).

Malaysia bt Indonesia 3-0 (Lee Chong Wei bt Tommy Sugiar
to 21-19, 21-13; Boon Heong Tan/ Thien How Hoon bt Mohammad Ahsan/ Hendra Setiawan 21-19, 8-21, 23-21; Wei Feng Chong bt Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka 21-10, 21-17).

Uber Cup: China bt Korea 3-0 (Li Xuerui bt Ji Hyun Sung 21-11, 21-9; Yixin Bao/ Jinhua Tang bt Ye Na Jang/ So Young Kim 21-11, 21-12; Wang Shixian bt Yeon Ju Bae 21-13, 16-21, 21-10).India lead Japan 2-1 (Saina Nehwal bt Minatsu Mitani 21-12, 21-13; PV Sindhu bt Sayaka Takahashi 19-21, 21-18, 26-24; Jwala Gutta/ Ashwini Ponnappa lt to Misaki Matsutomo/ Ayaka Takahashi 12-21, 22-20, 16-21).