Thomas Cup: Japan stun defending champions China to reach first final

In one of badminton's biggest and most surprising upsets, Japan has knocked six-time defending champions China out of the Thomas Cup 3-0 and entered the finals of the team competition for the first time in the country’s history.

Japan won the opening singles and doubles in straight games before 19-year old Kento Momota sealed the tie in a tense three-game battle with Pengyu Du. Chinese legend Lin Dan didn’t even make it on the court as he was slated to play the last singles in the best of five format.

File photo of Kento Momota. AFP

File photo of Kento Momota. AFP

Kenichi Tago got things underway for the Japanese with a relatively straight forward 21-13, 21-11 win over Long Chen in 43 minutes. The doubles pair of Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo had to work much harder and held their nerve at crucial moments to triumph over Biao Chai and Wei Hong 22-20, 21-19 to give Japan a 2-0 lead.

It was left to Du to keep China alive and he looked to have the edge and the momentum after scraping through the first game 25-23 against Momota. Du saved a number of game points, including one where Momota thought the shuttle was going long and chose to leave it, only to see it bounce agonisingly on the line.

The disappointment of losing the first game did not phase Momota and he took an early lead in the second game that he would not relinquish on the way to winning it 21-18.

The third was a see-saw battle initially, with Momota jumping out to a 6-2 lead before Du fought back to lead 9-8. Both players were desperate for the win at this stage and were hurling themselves around the court, often falling to the ground to retrieve smashes and drop shots, before springing up and scrambling back into position.

Momota then took control of the game and the match as Du tired and though the Chinese player saved a couple of match points, Momota and Japan were not to be denied their date with destiny.

Updated Date: May 23, 2014 15:59 PM