Bangkok: China won the Thomas Cup for the 10th time on Sunday as Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen saved two match points to beat Japan’s scratch pair Keigo Sonoda/Yuta Watanabe 17-21, 21-19, 22-20 in a deciding second men’s doubles match.
Early in the first set, Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen and Keigo Sonoda/Yuta Watanabe were neck and neck, after 13-13, the Japanese pair quickly ran away with 21-17 win in the first set.
In the second set, Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen paid more attention to the continuity of their rallies. The Chinese pair was quickly reaching the set point but were impatient as Keigo Sonoda/Yuta Watanabe took advantage of Li/Liu’s mistakes by saving two set points before Li/Liu took the second set 21-19.
After Li and Liu tied the third game 18-18, Keigo Sonoda/Yuta Watanabe stormed into a 20-18 lead. However, Li/Liu showed no signs of nerves as they scored four consecutive points to claim the decider 22-20 in 1 hour 10 minutes and to win the 10th Thomas Cup title for their country.
Former World No. 2 Kento Momota was buzzing around the court like an angry hornet stinging his Chinese opponent and the Rio Olympic champion Chen Long in the first men’s singles match with dazzling and several lucky net shots, and clutch smashes. Momota stuck to his tactics of quick pressure and threw in dozens of tie net shots with quick mid-air attacks to keep Chen Long from getting his rhythm.
Momota eventually won the first point for Japan by beating Chen Long 21-9, 21-18. It was Momota’s second straight win against Chen after he overcame Chen Long in the final of 2018 Asian Championships on April 29.
However, Japan’s odd decision of resting their first men’s doubles pair Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda, by moving up their second men’s doubles pair to play against Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan of China in the first men’s doubles proved to be a disastrous decision. Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan demolished Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko 21-10, 21-18 in 40 minutes to level the score at 1-1.
Although Shi Yuqi lost to Kenta Nishimoto at last year’s Asia Mixed Team Championships, but it did not seem to be a problem for Shi as the China player picked up 21-12 win in the first set while the Japanese struggled to find his stride on the court.
Shi continued to play consistent and occasionally brilliant badminton in the second, including a series of baseline cross court smashes to put China in a 2-1 lead by claiming the second set 21-17, before Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen finished the business and won the Thomas Cup for China which they last won it in the 2012 edition in Wuhan.
China bt Japan 3-1
Chen Long (China) vs Kento Momota (Japan) 9-21, 18-21
Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan (China) vs Takuto Inoue/Yuki Kaneko (Japan) 21-10, 21-18
Shi Yuqi (China) vs Kenta Nishimoto (Japan) 21-12, 21-17
Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen (China) vs Keigo Sonoda/Yuta Watanabe (Japan) 17-21, 21-19, 22-20