Japan ends China's Thomas Cup domination

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Olympic champion Lin Dan watched helplessly as badminton powerhouse China's decade-long Thomas Cup reign came to a spectacular end after Japan pulled off a huge upset with a 3-0 victory in the semi-final of the men's team event on Friday.

Japan will face Malaysia in their maiden Thomas Cup final on Sunday after Lin's old rival Lee Chong Wei inspired the Malaysians to a comprehensive 3-0 win over Indonesia in the second semi-final. Ranked a lowly 58th, a reflection of his infrequent outings since winning the gold at London Olympics, "Super Dan" was eligible to play only the third singles but his team mates could not stretch the contest to that point as China's bid for a 10th Thomas Cup title came unstuck.

World number two Chen Long lost 21-13 21-11 to Kenichi Tago and the Chinese, winners of the last five editions, fell further behind when they lost the first doubles match at the Siri Fort Complex.

Veteran Du Pengyu rekindled Chinese hopes by claiming the first game against Kento Momota but it was the 2012 world junior champion who prevailed in an 85-minute battle between youth and experience.

Japan's Korean coach Park Joo Bong had no hesitations in admitting he was shocked by the outcome.

"It came as a big surprise to us all," he said.

"What was even more surprising was the way Momota won the second singles against Du. If he had not, then the tie could have gone either way with Lin Dan to play the third singles," conceded Park.

Momota, who showed maturity beyond his 19 years, said he never got overwhelmed by the intimidating record of his rivals.

"We were always targeting the Chinese as we thought they were beatable despite the fact that they had very good singles players," said the youngster after his 23-25, 21-18, 21-14 victory. "I am happy that I got a chance to finish things off,” said Momota who created difficult angles and displayed superior net play to clinch the contest.

China, however, remained on course to defend their Uber Cup title after overpowering South Korea 3-0 in the first semi-final of the women's event.

In Saturday's final, they will face Japan who downed hosts India 3-2 in the second semi-final.

(Editing by Ed Osmond and Pritha Sarkar)