Joo Bong proud of his diluted Uber Cup squad despite defeat in final

Shout, let it all out: China’s Chen Qingchen screams as she and partner Jia Yi Fan overcame Japan’s Yuki Fukushima-Mayu Matsumoto 29-27, 15-21, 21-18 in the first doubles. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: Supremo Park Joo-bong is proud although Japan surrendered the Uber Cup trophy to archrivals China.

Japan failed to build on their early lead as they went down fighting to a 3-1 defeat at the Ceres Arena in Aarhus, Denmark on Saturday as China celebrated after lifting the title for the 15th time.

“Of course the end result was disappointing, but overall, our Uber Cup team had a good perfomance in this tournament,” said Joo-bong after the final.

Akane Yamaguchi stunned Olympics champion Chen Yufei 21-18, 21-10 to hand Japan a flying start, but China managed to capitalise by stealing points in the next two doubles and singles matches where Japan’s strength had been clearly diluted in the absence of their key members due to injury.

They had arrived in Denmark without world No. 3 singles ace Nozomi Okuhara and doubles trio of Sayaka Hirota, Wakana Nagahara and Chiharu Shida, who formed the world No. 1, No. 3 and No. 9 partnership with Yuki Fukushima, Mayu Matsumoto and Nami Matsuyama respectively.

Japan tried their best to come up with the best alternatives by throwing in Fukushima-Matsumoto and Matsuyama-Misaki Matsutomo but failed to yield the desired results.

Fukushima-Matsumoto lost 27-29, 21-15, 18-21 to world No. 2 Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan in an epic duel that lasted one hour and 57 minutes but that match turned out to be the turning point in the battle.

Fukushima-Matsumoto converted none of their seven game points in the opening game and it proved costly.

“It was a great fight. As they (Fukushima-Matsumoto) are a scratch pair, their communication wasn’t smooth and rotation was a bit slow,” said Joo-bong.

“We knew it was going to be difficult because their opponents are major title winners and also the recent Olympics silver medallists.

“They played a very long match, so it was very tiring for them but they played really good. Losing the first game was very unfortunate.”

Sayaka Takahashi, who was undefeated in all her last five matches in the second singles, finally found her match in He Bingjiao.

She went down tamely 9-21, 18-21.

Matsutomo-Matsuyama’s clash with Huang Dongping-Li Wenmei also went down to the wire as they could not prevent the Chinese from coming out tops 24-22, 23-21 to seal the title.

The Japanese had held one game point in the opening game and five in the second.

“Our second doubles could have won it, but they could not finish it,” lamented Joo-bong.

China bt Japan 3-1 (Chen Yufei lost to Akane Yamaguchi 18-21, 10-21; Cheng Qingchen-Jia Yifan bt Yuki Fukushima-Mayu Matsumoto 29-27, 15-21, 21-18; He Bingjiao bt Sayaka Takahashi 21-9, 21-18; Huang Dongping-Li Wenmei bt Misaki Matsutomo-Nami Matsuyama 24-22, 23-21).

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