The Chinese (above) thus defended the trophy they had won at Wuhan in 2012. China’s superiority over the rest of the women’s field was starkly evident today, for not only were Japan beaten, they were nearly decimated. Only a surprise result in the first Women’s Doubles kept Japanese spirits alive for a while, but that was to be extinguished with the rest of the Chinese team maintaining status quo.
Olympic champion Li Xuerui made world No.12 Minatsu Mitani (left) look out of her league in the opening singles. From 10-all in the first game, Li fired winners with ease from all corners of the court. Mitani was left lunging hopelessly as the missiles from Li’s racket found their mark with deadly precision. Mitani was reduced to a single digit in the second game: 21-15 21-5.
Having seen her team off to a strong start, Li said the win was easier than expected. “I didn’t expect to have such an easy match today because I’ve had tough matches with her earlier. I didn’t want to think too much. The men’s team did not affect me because such losses are normal.”
The second match saw an unexpected twist. Bao Yixin and Tang Jinhua, the most dominant Women’s Doubles pair over the last year with a nearly uninterrupted reign at Superseries tournaments, ran aground against the combative Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi. The Japanese maintained a barrage of attacking strokes that wore down Bao and Tang, who looked out of sorts and unable to defend with their usual consistency. The 21-18 21-9 result saw Japan back in contention at a match apiece.
Takahashi said Bao and Tang’s defeat by their Japanese compatriots Miyuki Maeda/Reika Kakiiwa at the All England had helped them plan for this match. “We didn’t see the All England match that Maeda and Kakiiwa won, but we discussed it with them and they told us to watch out particularly for their push returns to our serves. We were well prepared.”
The rest of the Japanese team, however, were not allowed any leeway by the champions. All England champion Wang Shixian (below) was troubled early on by Sayaka Takahashi’s crafty left-handed strokes, but once she started to read her opponent, Takahashi was pushed to the back court and Wang could pick her spot for the kill. Wang made it 2-1 for China with the 21-16 21-12 victory.
The tie was to end soon after, with the second doubles. Wang Xiaoli and Zhao Yunlei’s rasping smashes were too much for Miyuki Maeda and Reika Kakiiwa to handle. The Japanese defence was torn apart by the sheer power of Wang and Zhao, who made it a mismatch in the second game: 21-13 21-6.
China’s head coach Li Yongbo said the Uber Cup victory had much significance for this team. “This victory has two meanings for us. One was that our experienced players controlled the situation well, and the other was that our young players gained experience. We took the campaign very seriously.”
Japan’s (below) head coach Park Joo Bong had mixed feelings about his team’s loss. “Our target was the final. I’m happy with the result, as it is an improvement over our last two Uber Cup campaigns. However, our singles were not good enough. We just had a lucky draw.”
* Park was also asked about the Thomas Cup final featuring his team against Malaysia. “We were surprised that we could beat China, who are strong opponents. Our players’ condition is very good. They are used to the feeling of losing, but now they are confident because they have been winning. We can make history if we win.”
* It turned out to be an eventful week for Li Xuerui, who won BWF’s Female Player of the Year Award last night. “It’s the first time I’ve won this award and I’m very happy. It’s important for me. It’s a huge recognition for my achievements in 2013, despite my loss in the World Championships final.”
For today’s results, click here.