Japan pulled off one of the biggest upsets in Thomas Cup history Friday night by knocking out nine-time Thomas Cup champions and defending champions China 3-0 in the semi-final.
World No. 4 Kenichi Tago started aggressively early in the first game. His persistent attacks was able to dismantle Chen Long’s defense and quickly closing down his Chinese opponent with 21-13 win. Kenichi continued his hot streak in second game to overcome Chen Long 21-11 to grab the first point for Japan in 43 minutes.
Japan made it 2-0 through the world No. 3 doubles pair of Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo by edging out 15th-ranked Chai Biao and Hong Wei 22-20, 21-19 in 50 minutes.
Former junior world champion Kento Momota was then left to seal the win for Japan. The 19-year-old Japanese proved he had enough juice to fend off world number six Pengyu Du even though he lost a hard fought first game fight 23-25 after wasting two game points. However, with a positive attitude and with nothing to lose, Momota turned the momentum of the game around for himself with fast tempo, clinical smashing and incredible net play. He bounced back to upset Du Pengyu 21-18, 21-14 in the second and rubber game to secure a vital third point and to clinch victory for Japan. The Japanese team was erupted with joy after their upset win over China.
Momota, later joined his team-mates celebrating the victory by dancing in the stands, felt very calm with Japan’s success in breaking China’s domination.
“We are the new generation and we knew China could be beaten. I am happy that I got a chance to nail the winning point for Japan,” said Momota after the match.
“I won the world junior gold two years ago, and I am targeting Olympic gold in Rio,” added Momota.
Japan’s coach Park Joo Bong was surprised win the 3-0 score line. “The win seems unreal; it came as a big surprise to us all. What was even more surprising was when Momota was able to defeat Du Pengyu. If he had not, then the tie could have gone either way with Lin Dan to play the third singles,” said Park.
In Sunday’s final, Japan will meet the winners of the tie between Malaysia and Indonesia, who are to play Friday evening.