Monday, May 27, 2019
TEXT BY Lloyd Green & Tom Leonard | Badminton Photo
Hosts China dominated the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019 final in somewhat surprising fashion with Japan unable to silence the crowd as the first three Chinese representatives played inspired badminton to continue China’s stranglehold on the title.
Only five times in 16 editions of the tournament have they not hoisted the trophy.
Playing in their 13th consecutive final, the home nation took the first match in emphatic fashion with men’s doubles world champions Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen proving too good for Hiroyuki Endo/Yuta Watanabe.
Just 10 minutes into the match and rallies of up to 72 shots long set the tone for what was to come. The Chinese took the advantage at 11-7 in the first game and were persistent in their attack. Matched with the thunderous cheers of a passionate home crowd, the Chinese broke down the Japanese wall and prevailed 21-18 21-10 in 54 minutes.
If ever a doubles match was dominated by one player it was this one as Liu Yuchen raised his game to the next level and produced an unstoppable display of dynamic attack with impeccable defence.
Liu said afterward: “We played in four of the five ties this week and remained undefeated. This is for sure an assurance for us. We had to overcome different difficulties in our matches. This has definitely improved our ability to adapt in big match situations.”
Chen Yufei then made it 2-0 for China with an epic 17-21 21-16 21-17 victory over Akane Yamaguchi in one of the matches of the week. It was a seesawing battle across 81 minutes with both players holding the ascendency at different stages of the match and then relinquishing it under pressure.
An erratic Yamaguchi led 10-6 in the first game before conceding eight consecutive points to hand Chen the lead at 14-10. Yamaguchi consolidated to square it at 15-15 only for herself to reel off six straight points to take the first game.
She again seemed to go into her shell in the opening exchanges of the second game trailing 5-1 and 7-2 before rallying to go 10-9 up with Chen succumbing to the enormity of the moment.
However, the unforced errors continued from Yamaguchi’s racket and the less-experienced Chen was finally able to capitalise to open up a 16-11 lead. It was at this point the quality of the contest went up a notch with both players putting on a spectacle. Chen was able to close out the second game 21-16.
The twists and turns did not end there. It seemed as if fatigue had set in for Chen in the third as she went down 11-6. But she returned from the mid-game break with renewed vigour to win six straight points and nine of the next 11 to go up 15-13.
Yamaguchi continued to fight but with the home crowd on her side Chen pulled away to record a famous victory.
“I felt I played a bit slow in the beginning of the third game which caused me to waste a lot of energy. I couldn’t keep up with her but at the break I changed my game strategy and I took the lead,” said an exhausted Chen on her decisive move.
A disappointed Yamaguchi added: “I made a lot of errors on serve but I was also forced into a lot of mistakes by my opponent.”
Before today, world No. 1 Kento Momota had never been beaten across 17 Sudirman Cup and Thomas Cup matches. And with everything to play for, it looked like Momota could save the day for Japan after a convincing 21-15 win in the opener.
But that record ended in authority as Shi Yuqi found form beyond anything else witnessed this week as he sealed the tie 15-21 21-5 21-11 in 69 minutes for just his second win in six matches against Momota.
In an effort up there with Liu earlier, Yuqi increased the speed of his play and won 11 successive points in the third game to deflate any hopes of a Japanese revival.
Shi said of the contest: “I played badly in the first game. I am surprised I won the second and third game so easily. It’s really unexpected.“I won in 21-5 and 21-11. This would not have happened if he had played his usual game.
“Maybe he was affected by the fact that Japan was 2-0 behind, coupled with the pressure I put on him. I think this resulted in the unusual scoreline.”