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(Photo: Badmintonphoto)
China still on top of the world
Date: 10/3/2021 7:33 PM
Published by : Alan Raftery
What a week it has been in Vantaa, Finland. In a repeat Sudirman Cup final from 2019, Japan were hoping it’s third time lucky against China. However, any idea that China is not the same powerhouse as before was duly dismissed after an exceptional team performance. 

Flashback to 2019
In Nanning, China, the Japan team suffered the same fate as the final in 2015, a 3-0 loss. Li Jun Hui / Liu Yu Chen defeated Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe in straight games. Chen Yu Fei narrowly managed to hold off Akane Yamaguchi in three games, and Shi Yu Qi delivered a scintillating comeback against Kento Momota to crush Japanese hearts. 

With many of the same players in the line-up today, this match will be firmly at the back of their minds. 

Learning from last time
The final at the Energia Areena in Vantaa kicked off with the men’s doubles. He Ji Ting/ Zhao Hao Dong got off to a great start, winning the opening game. With Takuro Hoki/ Yugo Kobayashi, Japan wanting to make a stand early, they turned the game in their favour. 

Going into the decider, China had the advantage most of the way but with some solid defensive work from Hoki/ Kobayashi, they were closing in. He/ Zhao experienced this exact thing in the group stage against Rasmussen/ Sogaard and they were very aware of this.

-We are overjoyed. In the game against Denmark, it came down to the same situation. We fortunately learnt lessons from that match. Keep calm and be patient! He stated while also waving to his teammates congratulating him.

They upped their intensity and urgency, opting for all-out attack. It worked and they took the match 21-17, 14-21, 21-16. 

Yamaguchi gets first point
In 2019, the match between Akane Yamaguchi and Chen Yu Fei was a thriller. Having played 18 times before has a lot to do why their matches are always tight. Today Yamaguchi was well prepared and delivered a complete performance, winning 21-19, 21-16. 

-I am very happy. We were defeated last time, so I was prepared for the match thinking that I do not want to repeat that experience again. Even though our men’s doubles before were defeated, they played with real intensity. By watching them I gained energy, Yamaguchi said thoughtfully. 

-Yamaguchi was better prepared in the longer rallies than me, Chen agreed.

Déjà vu for Momota
With the scores level, Kento Momota met Shi Yu Qi once again, this time with an opportunity to take the lead. Shi came out strongly, taking the opening game. Was Momota struggling with fatigue? He doesn’t think so.

-No, I was not tired. If I hit the shuttle with more confidence the result would have been better, Momota insisted.

Despite taking a decisive second game, Shi filled up his lungs and had a lot more left to give. He looked unplayable in the latter stages of the deciding game, with Momota still unable to get his attack going, and won the match 21-13, 8-21, 21-12. 

-First of all, I am very tired, but I had to win today for my team, Shi said.

Shi is returning from a lengthy time out through injury. When asked if he is back at his best Shi smirked and said.

- I'm at 90 per cent right now. But am working hard to get even higher to 120 per cent.

Chen/ Jia get their moment
Chen Qing Chen/ Jia Yi Fan were not needed in China’s 3-0 semifinal win over Korea. Moreover, they were also not needed in the Sudirman Cup final two years ago, but they led the charge in celebrating with Shi Yu Qi on court. 

This time they were given a chance to be the ones to seal it for their country against the talented scratch pairing of Mayu Matsumoto/ Misaki Matsutomo. Predictably a defensively sound Japanese pair asked questions of the Olympic silver medallists, but they took their chances well and were the more energetic and proactive pair. 

Chen/ Jia powered their way through and sealed Sudirman Cup glory with their onrushing teammates. Coming into the interview area there were tears of joy and utter delight at what they were able to achieve!

-Last time I jumped on Shi Yu Qi, so when we celebrated, I was like Shi why are you not jumping on me!! Jia bellowed followed by laughter. 

-Getting together as a team is the most important thing, we trust each other to win and we just do our best, Chen said, before rushing off with a smile to the prize ceremony. 

China once again confirmed their status as the world’s best by winning their twelfth Sudirman Cup. 

Now the men and women split into teams and travel to Denmark for the Thomas and Uber Cups. There is so much badminton to get excited about this year! 

Thank you, Finland
The fact that the Sudirman Cup was able to be played out safely is down to the collective effort of everyone involved and the hosts. Badminton Europe will be returning to Finland in 2022 for the European Men’s and Women’s Team Championships and the European Championships. 

See you soon Finland!

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