New Delhi: There were many moist eyes in both camps. The Japanese wept because they were lifting their maiden Thomas Cup title while for the Malaysians it was a case of so close and yet so far. If only, the Malaysians had few quicker feet, their 22-year-long wait would have ended. But, in the end, Japan’s badminton revival in was complete on the day, thanks to Takuma Ueda’s brilliant display, as their collective efforts saw them rewrite the history book with a 3-2 win.
With both Japan and Malaysia in a precarious position after the 2-2 score, the pressure on the third singles’ players was immense. And Ueda, taking on the responsibility of seeing his team through, started in a whirlwind fashion to beat Daren Lew 21-12, 18-21, 21-17 and seal the fate of Malaysia.
In fact, Ueda’s one-point agenda seemed to be going all out and attacking his opponent from the moment he stepped on the court. What is remarkable was the confidence with which he executed his plans aggressively. Udea’s precise smashes and net play only added to the hapless Lew’s owes even as the latter was struggling to keep the shuttle in play.
Lew, however, showed great character and came back in the second game after being down 11-15 and then 15-18. With courage and determination Lew took the game at 21-18 to breathe life. But it was too little and too late in the day as he got very little space in the third game for a full-throat Malaysian celebration. The Japanese deserved all the attention, yet the Malaysians can return home with their heads held high.
“It feels very special. I was under tremendous pressure after our doubles loss. But it was good I could win it for my team,” said a breathing-heaving Ueda.
Earlier, world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei gave Malaysia the lead after hammering Kenichi Tago 21-12, 21-16 in the first singles. The Olympic and world championship silver medallist was too fast for Tago and the latter wilted under the onslaught of the Malysian.
In any case, Japan were actually prepared to begin their challenge from the second match just like their women did in their semifinal against India after the first two singles the other evening.
But by no stretch of imagination, it was a cakewalk. Their men’s doubles combination of Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo had to really sweat it out for 77 minutes before they managed to overcome the challenge of the scratch Malaysian pair of Boon Heong Tan and Thien How Hoon to win 12-21, 21-17, 21-19.
Then it was up to their semifinal hero Kento Momata to take the match forward. The 20-year-old did precisely that and put Japan ahead at 2-1 with a 21-15, 21-17 decimation of Wei Feng Chong. The Malaysian second doubles pair, playing scratchily in the first game, came back strongly to clinch the match 19-21, 21-17, 21-12 to take the final into the decider.