Japan oust Malaysia to win maiden Thomas Cup
The Japanese men's badminton team mobs Takuma Ueda after he defeated Malaysia's Daren Liew to win the Thomas Cup badminton final against Malaysia at Siri Fort Stadium in New Delhi on May 25, 2014 - by Sajjad Hussein
World number 25 Takuma Ueda overcame a spirited resistance from the 66th-ranked Daren Liew before taking the fifth and decisive match 21-12, 18-21, 21-17 at the Siri Fort complex in the Indian capital.
The Japanese, whose best performance in 12 previous Cup appearances had been a semi-final berth in 2012, ensured the sensational 3-0 rout of five-time defending champions China on Friday did not go to waste.
A visibly relieved Ueda said it was a "special feeling" to be part of his country's maiden Cup win.
"There was pressure on me because it was a key match and there was strong Malaysian support in the crowd," the Japanese man of the moment said.
"I did give away the advantage in the second game, but I was not really worried because I knew I would win if I did not make too many mistakes.
"This is a real special feeling now."
Japan's Korean coach Park Joo-Bong, a former world and Olympic doubles champion, hoped the victory would increase badminton's popularity among the Japanese.
"Its a very small sport in Japan, but this is a big achievement," he said. "Badminton will get noticed when we win more such major events.
"We now have a good group of players who can do well in future. In this final, our players were able to handle pressure better than the Malaysians and that is a very good sign."
World number one Lee Chong Wei, who had hoped to bring the Thomas Cup back to Malaysia after 22 years, took the defeat in his stride.
"It is of course disappointing not to win the title after coming so close," he said. "But making the final itself was a bonus because our target before the tournament started was the semis.
"I had prepared well for the final because Japan were going to be very confident after beating China in the semi-final."
Lee gave Malaysia a winning start with a 21-12, 21-16 win over the fourth-ranked Kenichi Tago in the opening singles.
But Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo drew level for Japan, fighting back after losing the first game to beat Tan Boon Heong and Hoon Thien How 12-21, 21-17, 21-19 in an hour and 16 minutes.
Kento Momota, the hero of Japan's win against China when he beat world number six Du Pengyu in the third match, once again put his side in front with an impressive win over Chong Wei Feng.
Momota, the 20-year-old world number 14, demolished the Malaysian number two Chong 21-15, 21-17 in just 38 minutes.
Malaysia's doubles pair of Goh Shem and Tan Wee Kiong brought their team back into contention by beating Keigo Sonoda and Takeshi Kamura 19-21, 21-17, 21-12 to make it 2-2.
Malaysia, who won the last of their five Thomas Cup titles in 1992, had also lost in the final in 1994, 1998 and 2002.