Bangkok: Top-seeded Japan breezed past hosts Thailand 3-0 in Bangkok on Saturday to win the prestigious Uber Cup for the first time since 1981.
Japanese women’s team used to be a major force in the Uber Cup tournament, they’ve won the Uber Cup in 1966, 1969, 1972, 1978 and 1981. But, ever since China started joining the competition in 1984, China have dominated the prestigious women’s team tournament and has won total of 14 Uber Cup title since 1984.
This time, with a team stacked with top ranked players in both the singles and doubles, Japan made light work of the hosts Thailand, who entered the finals for the first time after stunning China 3-2 in the semis.
Playing in front of Thailand crowd, Japan’s World No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi was very patient in her net shots, rallies and smashes to get her team to a strong start with a 21-15, 21-19 win over home star Ratchanok Intanon.
World No. 2 women’s doubles pair Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota put their team on the verge of winning the trophy by beating Jongkolphan Kititharakul/Puttita Supajirakul of Thailand 21-18, 21-12.
Roared on by her teammates in sideline, reigning world champion and World No. 9 Nozomi Okuhara cemented her spot as a hero for the Japanese team as she came through 21-12, 21-9 triumph over a tired Nitchaon Jindapol to claim the title for her country. Jindapol was involved in a 91 minutes battle on Friday against China’s Gao Fangjie before beating the Chinese player 19-21, 21-19, 21-12 in the second women’s singles match.
“Japan’s women’s team was very strong thirty-seven years ago, we are happy to be able to regain the Uber Cup,” said the delighted Nozomi Okuhara.
“We’ve spent the last four years to push our players up the world rankings while building a strong national team,” said Japanese head coach Park Joo-Bong, who himself is a badminton legend in South Korea.
“The players shrugged off the pressure to lead Japan for the win, and we are on the right track for the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo,” added Park.
As for Thailand’s dark-horse women’s team which stunned badminton powerhouse China in the semi-final, celebrated the runners-up and they were confident to become a strong contender in the upcoming Asian Games.
“We are going to have a strong chance to win gold at Asian Games,” said Thailand’s head coach Rexy Mainaky.
Japan have a chance to secure both Uber Cup and Thomas Cup if the Japanese men’s team could overcome China in the Thomas Cup final on Sunday.