Monday, 28 May 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM
Relieved Xuanze going for a drink after team regain crown
A HUGE burden has been lifted off head coach Xia Xuanze’s (pic) shoulders after China bagged the Thomas Cup title for the 10th time.
“I’m relieved. I can have a drink now,” said Xuanze, who took over the helm as the supremo after Li Yongbo left the scene in 2016.
“It was a hard-fought victory. This win means a lot to us after missing out in the last two editions.”
Yesterday, China regained their status as the best men’s team in the world after a hard-fought 3-1 win over Japan.
The win ended China’s six-year wait and showed that their men shuttlers are back to rule world badminton again.
China lost in the semi-finals at the 2014 edition in New Delhi which saw Japan winning the title for the first time. Two years ago, China lost in the quarter-finals in Wuhan while Denmark went on to take the Cup for the first time.
It appeared as though China were set to lose for the third time in a row yesterday when Kento Momota put up an incredible show to beat two-time world champion Chen Long 21-9, 21-18 in the first singles.
Momota was impressive throughout the match with his well-planned attacking shots and great mastery at the net too. There was nothing Chen Long could do to bring the world No. 12 down.
But China were back in business when they levelled the score through their top pair Liu Cheng-Zhang Nan, who were in immaculate form in their 21-10, 21-18 win over scratch pair Takuto Inoue-Yuki Kaneko.
Reigning All-England champion Shi Yuqi delivered when it mattered most when he blew away Kenta Nishimoto 21-12, 21-17 to hand China a 2-1 lead.
It was up to Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen to clinch the winning point and they did pull it off but not after they were stretched to the limit by scratch pair Keigo Sonoda-Yuta Watanabe.
The world No. 4 Chinese pair prevailed to beat Sonoda-Watanabe 17-21, 21-19, 22-20 to take the Cup back to China.
Five-time world champion and third singles Lin Dan did not get a chance to play but Xuanze said the maestro was still part of their big plan.
“Lin Dan did not play a big role in this team event because most of the ties were decided before he got to play.
“But that does not mean that this is his last appearance as he will continue to play an important role for China,” said Xuanze.
For Lin Dan, it was his sixth Thomas Cup victory and his 20th world-level title in a list which includes Olympic Games, World Championships and Sudirman Cup.
It does not include all other Open tournaments.
China will now shift their attention to the Asian Games in August where they hope to win the lion’s share of the medals at stake.