SUDIRMAN CUP Finals – Another clean sheet, another title for China

China downed Japan 3-0 to win back the Sudirman Cup, taking an 11th title at badminton’s world mixed team championship and doing it for an 8th time without dropping a […]

China downed Japan 3-0 to win back the , taking an 11th title at badminton’s world mixed team championship and doing it for an 8th time without dropping a match in the final.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

It’s been 24 years since a new team won the Sudirman Cup.  That was in 1995 at the 4th edition of badminton’s world mixed team championship and China added its name to a list that so far included Indonesia and Korea.  Since then, the title has belonged to China in a way that almost no other major badminton title has belonged to any one team.

Since China first ascended to the top of a Sudirman Cup podium in Lausanne all those years ago, only two blips on the title radar by Korea, in 2003 and again in 2017, have interrupted Chinese reign.  This year, Japan looked extremely threatening when they were seeded first for the group stage in March of this year.

Throughout the week in Nanning, though, China has been the team in control of its own fate.  The only loss suffered by any Chinese shuttler this week came when Chen Long was beaten in the quarter-finals by former World Champion Viktor Axelsen.  China still came through that tie 3-1 and followed it up with a clean sheet in the semi-final stage against Thailand.

Interestingly, Japan had higher-ranked players to field in all but the last discipline in order of play, the mixed doubles.  However, the Japanese coaches put in the names for their second-highest ranked players in both men’s doubles and women’s singles as part of a way to deal with China’s very dangerous and in-form shuttlers.

The first match in the final featured World Champions and World Tour Finals winners Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen (pictured above) getting the nod, as expected, for the home team.  Rather than their world #2 pair Kamura/Sonoda, Japan went with their world #6 duo of Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe, who had a much better record against the towering Chinese.

Early in the match, Endo and Watanabe looked more confident in their defense than most of the pairs who have faced the mighty Chinese over the past week.  But after staying close throughout their opening game and coming up just short, the Japanese pair were left in the Chinese giants’ dust in the second game, barely managing double figures, and China soon had a one-point lead in the tie.

“We played in four of the five ties this week and remained undefeated,” Liu Yuchen was quoted as saying in a BWF press release.

“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.”

In women’s singles as well, China’s nod obviously went to a world #3 shuttler but Chen Yufei (pictured above) has Japanese players ranked above her and it was #4 Akane Yamaguchi who was deemed to be in form to take on the new All England champion.  Yamaguchi had the upper hand early in the match but Chen came roaring back to even it up a one game apiece.  The Japanese shuttler took an ominous 11-6 lead in the decider but Chen Yufei was accurate, deceptive, and calm as she erased the deficit and proceeded to close out the match.

Finally in the third match, it was up to Shi Yuqi (pictured) to produce an upset for the home team but it was the world #1 vs. the world #2 and although Kento Momota had won easily in Wuhan a few weeks ago, he was totally outclassed by Shi in their second and third games.

Upon sealing the win and the title for China, Shi Yuqi was met with the obligatory mobbing by his team-mates, who rushed on court, led by Jia Yifan, who was spared her own duties in the fourth match by virtue of China’s third match victory.  Jia ran at Shi and leapt into his arms, followed by the rest of the exuberant Chinese players.

The Chinese team’s elation was shared by the home crowd.  It was the fifth time that Team China had managed to win the Sudirman Cup in a Chinese host city.  The first time was in Beijing in 2005 but they repeated the home winning performance in Guangzhou in 2009, in Qingdao in 2011, and again in Dongguan 4 years ago.

Final resultChina 3, Japan 0
MD:  Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen (CHN) beat Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe (JPN)  21-18, 21-10
WS:  Chen Yufei (CHN) beat Akane Yamaguchi (JPN)  17-21, 21-16, 21-17
MS:  Shi Yuqi (CHN) beat Kento Momota (JPN)  15-21, 21-5, 21-11
WD:  Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) vs. Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (JPN) [not played]
XD:  Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong (CHN) vs. Yuta Watanabe / Arisa Higashino (JPN) [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