Kento Momota falls to the floor after beating China's Du Pengyu 23-25, 21-18, 21-14. He sealed the last point for Japan's 3-0 win over China in the Thomas Cup semi-finals.
NEW DELHI: Kento Momota threw his racquet into the air and sprawled on the floor as his Japanese team-mates celebrated a historic moment – sealing a comprehensive 3-0 win over giants China in the semi-finals of the Thomas Cup Finals.
Momota had no energy left, having just toiled for 75 minutes to finish off China’s second-ranked shuttler Du Pengyu 23-25, 21-18, 21-14 to send Japan into the final for the first time in their Thomas Cup history at the Siri Fort Indoor Stadium on Friday.
China went into the competition looking to become the first-ever team to win a sixth straight title but their players’ failure to withstand the pressure-cooker situation proved their undoing.
It was also China’s first defeat in a Thomas Cup tie since losing 1-3 to Malaysia in the semi-finals of the 2002 Thomas Cup in Guangzhou.
World No. 2 Chen Long, who played the first singles for the first time for China, crumbled under the persistent attacks from Kenichi Tago, who won 21-13, 21-11 in 43 minutes.
Japan’s world No. 3 pair of Kenichi Hayakawa-Hiroyuki Endo heaped further pressure on China when they took apart Chai Biao-Hong Wei to win the first doubles 22-20, 21-19.
It was then left to Kento to become the hero for Japan.
Kento, who later joined his team-mates to dance with joy in the stands, was unfazed by Japan’s success in breaking China’s domination.
“We came here prepared to challenge every team. I won the world junior title two years ago and I want to fight for the Olympic gold in two years’ time (in Rio).
“We are the new generation and we knew China could be beaten.
“But to achieve this, we knew we had to win the first three points (first and second singles and first doubles) as China would be dangerous after that.
“We started as underdogs and had nothing to lose today,” said the rising Japanese star, who will only turn 20 in October.
Kenichi, who set Japan up with his opening singles win, was determined not to let Chen Long dictate the game.
“I didn’t want to engage in long rallies. I did not let him control things. Besides, I was confident as I had beaten him before,” said the former All-England finalist.
China chief coach Li Yongbo, who remained emotionless as the Japanese shuttlers celebrated, later said that the heavy pressure took its toll on his players.
“Kenichi brought out his best attacking game and Chen Long had no answer today.
“We needed to win the first doubles to save the tie. We didn’t and Du Pengyu faced very big pressure – something he has never faced before (two points down). It’s a good experience for my players,” said Yongbo, who was also in charge when China last tasted defeat back in 2002.
China, however, can take consolation from the fact that their women’s team could still bring home the Uber Cup as they scored a 3-0 win over South Korea in the semi-finals.