Japan storms into final of badminton’s Uber Cup
TOKYO (AFP) – Top-seeds Japan charged into the final of badminton’s Uber Cup on Friday, beating South Korea in the semis 3-1, with doubles pair Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi securing their shot at the title.
World number two Akane Yamaguchi got Japan off to a flying start, easing to a 21-10, 21-13 win against South Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun, while Nozomi Okuhara dispatched Lee Jang Mi 21-9, 21-15.
South Korea had levelled at 1-1 with the first doubles pairing but Matsutomo and Takahashi battled to a 21-11, 17-21, 21-14 win in the deciding match.
Japanese world number nine Okuhara has yet to lose in this year’s biennial Uber cup, which is being held in Bangkok. “My senior teammates encouraged me to bring out my best, so I was only thinking about doing my badminton,” she told reporters afterwards.
“I think it will be a tough battle whoever I face tomorrow.”
In the other semi-final, hosts Thailand threatened to pull off the upset of the tournament so far, going 2-1 up against defending champions China on Friday afternoon with two matches to play.
Thai star Ratchanok Intanon won the first singles game in a thrilling 15-21, 21-9, 21-14 over China’s Chen Yufei, who is ranked one place behind her in fifth.
With crowds shouting “Thailand! Thailand!” Ratchanok hit smash after smash to come back after losing the first game to win two in a row.
“I was a bit excited because every point was important, especially in the final rounds,” she told reporters afterwards.
“I thank the Thai sport fans that come to support.”
Thailand lost the first doubles, but Nitchaon Jindapol clawed her way back from a set down to beat Gao Fangjie in a thriller that had the crowd on their feet.
The comeback win for the home favourite was sparked by a remarkable scoop from the floor when she was 13-11 down in the second set.
The tournament is held alongside the men’s Thomas Cup, whose semi-finals are being held later Friday, with China, Japan, Indonesia and Denmark all hoping to move forward.
China have their eyes on a 15th Uber Cup victory.
Denmark are returning champions, but China has fielded an all-star cast of players as they seek to regain a title lost on home soil two years ago.