UBER CUP 2018 Final – Japan ends long wait in short order

Japan dealt host Thailand a summary defeat in the final of the 2018 Uber Cup to pick up the nation’s 6th title, but their first in 37 years. By Don […]

Japan dealt host Thailand a summary defeat in the final of the 2018 Uber Cup to pick up the nation’s 6th title, but their first in 37 years.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live from Bangkok)

Thailand’s dream run came to an end all too quickly as the hosts were beaten in six straight games to cede the Uber Cup to Japan.  Thai hopes were high, particularly in the first two matches, but the Japanese shuttlers’ prowess was not to be overturned this time.

Japan came in with favoured players in all five matches but it was certainly not a forgone conclusion.  World #2 Akane Yamaguchi losing to the world #1 earlier in the week was hardly a stain on her record but she had also lost her only encounter with Ratchanok Intanon (pictured) this year and with the 2013 World Champion playing with the home crowd behind her, anything was possible.

Yamaguchi had the edge early in the match but Intanon made a promising surge from the first mid-game interval, only to see her opponent run away with it and take the one-game lead.  Yamaguchi built up a worrying lead in the second but with the overwhelming crowd support, Intanon reeled her opponent in three times before finally ceding defeat and allowing Japan to go up one match to zero.

The Asian Champions were next on court for Japan but they were coming off their first loss of the week, to a Korean scratch pairing that had looked very shaky just a day earlier.  Thailand, too, fielded a scratch pairing against Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota (pictured) and the strategy seemed to be paying off as Jongkolphan Kititharakul / Puttita Supajirakul pushed out to a commanding lead early in the opener.

Some easy mistakes by the Thais and solid play by the Japanese pair saw the Thai lead disappear in one blistering 7-point run.  The Thais never recovered and the second game was all Japan.

Overcoming a 0-2 deficit in a team tie is a tough task at the best of times but the first two matches were arguably Thailand’s best chances.  Nitchaon Jindapol (pictured below) might otherwise have been full of confidence having won two major titles in the last year and coming off her important win in the semi-final tie.

However, with the Japanese momentum, reigning World Champion Nozomi Okuhara cruised to victory in two quick games and her team wasted no time in celebrating, crowding onto the court to maul the singles ace in a wave of hot pink as she was still shaking Jindapol’s hand over the net.

It was Japan’s first Uber Cup title since 1981, when China had not yet begun participating and Korea sat out the competition after a disappointing first outing.  China had taken 14 of the intervening 17 editions, with Indonesia and Korea accounting for the remaining 3.

The next challenge for the Japanese women’s badminton team will no doubt be the Asian Games.  In that event, Japan last won the gold back in 1970 and in fact both of the women’s badminton team gold happened in Bangkok.  This year, they are the favourites to take the title in Jakarta, where they have never won a women’s team title.

Uber Cup final result: Japan 3, Thailand 0
WS1:  Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) beat Ratchanok Intanon (THA)  21-15, 21-19
WD1:  Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) beat Jongkolphan Kititharakul / Puttita Supajirakul (THA)  21-18, 21-12
WS2:  Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) beat Nitchaon Jindapol (THA)  21-12, 21-9
WD2:  Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) vs. Rawinda Prajongjai / Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA)  [not played]
WS3:  Sayaka Takahashi (JPN) vs. Busanan Ongbamrungphan (THA)  [not played]

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Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net