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Japan stun China to win Uber Cup qualifiers

A determined Japan overcame the odds and a 2-0 deficit to stun China in the final of the Uber Cup qualifiers in Macau on Saturday.

Minatsu Mitani (left), scored the winning point when she defeated former world champion Wang Lin 21-19, 21-14, to cap a memorable fight back for the five-time champions.

Earlier, Li Xuerui was taken the distance by Sayaka Sato before eventually prevailing in a rubber-game 21-18, 12-21, 21-6, to give China a 1-0 lead.

They went further ahead when Zhao Yunlei-Tian Qing were simply too good for Japan’s top doubles pairing of Mizuki Fujii-Reika Kakiiwa, winning 21-19, 21-15, in 50 minutes.

At that point, it seemed China’s decision not to bring their top singles players – Wang Yihan, Wang Shixian and Wang Xin as well as their dominant doubles partnership of Yu Yang-Wang Xiaoli – was going to be vindicated.

The Japanese girls, however, had other ideas and fought back ferociously in the next three ties.

First, All England runner-up Eriko Hirose showed her tremendous fighting spirit against Liu Xin (right), twice overcoming game points in the opening game before closing it out 25-23.

Although the Chinese shuttler took the second game quite comfortably, winning 21-12, Hirose was all business in the decider and won it 21-16 to give her country some hope.

The experienced duo of Mami Naito-Shizuka Matsuo (left), then levelled the scores with a hard-fought match against Cheng Shu-Pan Pan, winning 21-14, 21-16 in 53 minutes

That set the stage for Mitani to upstage her opponent and hand the tie to Japan.

Thailand defeated Taipei 3-2 to finish third in the qualifiers while Indonesia are favourites to finish fifth.

Only the top four teams are guaranteed tickets to the Uber Cup finals while the fifth-placed country will only qualify if their ranking is higher than the fourth-placed European team. The European qualifiers are currently being held in Amsterdam.

In the Thomas Cup qualifiers, China take on Japan in Sunday’s final. Indonesia defeated Malaysia 3-2 to finish third. All four teams have qualified for the tournament proper and they are likely to be joined by South Korea, who are the favourites to finish fifth.

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