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China and Japan win the battle for the top spots

10/14/2021 3:29 PM |  BadmintonEurope.com |  Alan Raftery
The two nations who met in the final of the Sudirman Cup faced tough matches to secure the top spots in their Thomas Cup groups this morning. Both nations delivered but while one huffed and puffed, the other laid down a marker in the Thomas Cup. 

Group C – China breathes a sigh of relief
Both China and India delivered two faultless 5-0 wins over the other teams in their group, Tahiti and the Netherlands. They faced off today to decide who finishes first in the group, which could prove crucial in the knockout draw. 

Shi Yu Qi made a bright start for China, defeating Srikanth Kidambi 21-12, 21-16. In fact, this was only Shi’s second win over the Indian in their six encounters. 

-Even though we have already qualified for the knockout rounds, I had to try my best today. It was my first match here, so my opponent was more used to the set up here, so I had to adjust, Shi explained. 

-I gave him too many points with too many easy mistakes. In the second game, I gave away seven or eight points in a row, and I should really work on them. I feel I am lacking match-play, so this year I hope to play a lot and hopefully be ready for the World Championships, Srikanth stated. 

With China’s top men’s doubles pair of Li Jun Hui/ Liu Yu Chen not here, He Ji Ting/ Zhou Hao Dong took on Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/ Chirag Shetty. The tall Indian combination delivered their typical power game but were also able to tidily control the frontcourt. They levelled the score at 1-1 with a 21-14, 21-14 win. 

-We are pretty satisfied with our win. We wanted to win for our team. It’s always fun playing with this Indian team and now we have a good understanding. Our tactics were solid today, Rankireddy said with a huge smile. 

Huge opportunity missed
Sameer Verma was poised to take a lead against the reigning champions when he took on Lu Guang Zu, the runner up in China’s nationals. They both exchanged one-sided games to set up a decider. Verma used his experience to twice take a lead, once at 16-11 and then more importantly at 20-17 with three match points - but then disaster struck. 

Lu somehow mustered up the energy to claw back the score and defended one more match point at 22-21 to then win the match 24-22 and give China a 2-1 lead. 

Liu Cheng and Wang Yi Lyu deliver win...just
When you have the likes of the Olympic mixed doubles champion and the partnerless former men’s doubles World Champion, then you play them together. Liu/ Wang faced India’s M. R. Arjun/ Dhruv Kapila and got off to a tricky start, trailing 17-9 in the opening game. Miraculously, they came back to win 26-24. India must have been thinking, ‘not again’!

Arjun/ Kapila tried to stabilise in the second and managed to gain a 16-13 advantage. However, once again the Chinese duo surged forward with six straight points, to eventually secure the team win 21-19. 

To finish off the tie, Li Shi Feng was able to overturn a 2017 loss to Kiran George to win 21-15, 21-17 and make it 4-1 to China. 

Group D – Japan send a message
Japan and Malaysia met in the Sudirman Cup semifinal. On that occasion in the men’s singles, Lee Zii Jia scored a hair-raising win over the world number one, Kento Momota, before proceeding to rip off his shirt in celebration. 

Today, after another terrific dual, Lee had two match points to add another win over Momota. However, Momota couldn’t be finished off this time and he managed to clinch the win 23-21. 

-Lee Zii Jia wants to attack with his smash a lot and I want to rally more. I was more patient today. I know I have to start from scratch, and I am building block by block to try and become an even better player, Momota explained. 

This inspired the Japanese team to go forth and grab the win. Takuro Hoki/ Yugo Kobayashi were able to replicate their semifinal win in Finland against Aaron Chia/ Soh Wooi Yik.

-I think they found a way to play us on the tactical side. The other players study us more, Chia mentioned. 

Kanta Tsuneyama weathered the storm in the first game to make it 3-0 with a 22-20, 21-13 win over Cheam June Wei. 

The first glimpse of the new Japanese partnership of Yuta Watanabe and Akira Koga was a successful one. They dispatched Goh Sze Fei/ Nur Izzuddin 21-10, 21-16. 

Finally, with the tie well and truly done, Leong Jun Hao showed good mental resilience to defeat the experienced Kenta Nishimoto 21-19, 21-18. 

Knockout time
The draw took place in Aarhus, Denmark, and here are the match ups:

Indonesia vs Malaysia
Denmark vs India

Thailand vs China
Korea vs Japan

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