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India Win the Thomas Cup!

Today was a day that will long be savoured by Indian badminton fans as their team overcame their status as underdogs to lift the trophy. Today was the day that legends were made.

India on top of the Podium. Image courtesy BWF

This was a brilliant win engineered by a group of athletes and coaches who all performed with distinction. Sen looked in danger of being overwhelmed by Ginting but after yielding the first set he coolly played his way to the win. Rankireddy/Shetty were up against Ahsan/Sukamuljo and lost set 1 but fought back with fast and furious tactics to force a second victory. Kidambi wrapped it all up in a brisk two sets. Indonesia just couldn’t disrupt the winning momentum of this squad.

The campaign has been bruising right from the start, but the resolve of these athletes proved impossible to break. This success, built on dedication, grit, and an obstinate refusal to let any match go is a testament to their self-belief and desire. When pivotal points had to be won every athlete in the Indian team had the mental strength to grasp the advantage. They relished the challenge.

They started as slight favourites at the Round Robin stage in Group C and began with 5-0 demolitions of Germany and Canada. However, the final tie – against Taiwan – to decide the group winners was a difficult contest. CHOU Tien Chen and LEE/WANG won the first two matches and although Kidambi pulled a game back, they lost 3-2. Taiwan topped the group. This meant that their route to the final in the next phase of the tournament suddenly was full of badminton’s big beasts

The knockouts require total focus and a quarter final against Malaysia was the first barrier at the sudden death stage of the tournament. This badminton superpower arrived in Bangkok with LEE Zii Jia as MS1. He crushed Sen (reportedly suffering with food poisoning) in two sets but as the tie advanced the impetus of the teams ebbed and flowed. It was Prannoy in the last match with the scores equal at 2-2 who grasped victory for India and a chance for a pop at Denmark.

The semi-final with Denmark gave us a repeat of the All-England final in the first match. Viktor continued his recent imperious form and dismissed a below par Sen in two. However, once again in a team contest Antonsen – at MS2 – struggled to keep his focus and Kidambi’s victory gave his teammates hope. With the scores level at 2-2 Prannoy stepped onto court; Gemke took the first game but couldn’t maintain his advantage and after 73 minutes history beckoned. India were in the Final!

This team matured and became battle-hardened as the week progressed This was a collective effort that overcame benchmark teams like Denmark, Malaysia and Indonesia. History has been made; its a proud moment for the players and all their supporters.


if you enjoyed this then take a look at my article from last year https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/10/17/indonesia-win-the-thomas-cup/


©2022 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved

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Uber Cup 2022 Preview

A spectacular lineup of the top women players will be contesting the Uber Cup in Thailand. There are mouthwatering head-to-heads promised as 16 teams chase their dream of winning the Uber Cup. Can anyone stop China from keeping hold of the trophy for another 2 years?

Just like the Thomas Cup this tournament begins with a Round Robin. The top 2 from each pool of four then progress to the Death or Glory knockouts.

Group A: Japan, Indonesia, France, Germany.

Akane’s regeneration since the Olympics has been dazzling; now she has rediscovered her joy at simply playing badminton and with this squad I would expect the Japanese team to dominate all their encounters in group A. Once they get past this stage though, they will be tested. A fully fit Nozomi is one of the best players in the world but lately there are question marks around her recovery from recent injuries. In doubles FukuHiro are back and should be able to hold their own along with NagaMatsu. The athlete who potentially can provide the special ‘something’ for this team is Misaki Matsutomo. Currently with the team as a refugee from XD, her touch and vision could make the difference when the pressure is on. I still feel a gnawing regret that she is no longer full-time in the WD sector. As she has made the trip to Bangkok the implication is that she will be part of a scratch pair.

The puzzle in this group is who will come second. Indonesia has sent some of its lesser known players who are unlikely to go further. Germany’s players had an excellent European Championship, so this points to progress to the quarter finals ahead of France.

Group B: China, Taiwan, Spain, Australia.

This group holds the possibility of some fabulous ties. WANG Zhi Yi could be seen as China’s WS3 but her recent triumph over Akane in the singles final at the Badminton Asia Championships has highlighted what a talented player she can be. Along with new-look HE Bing Jiao, CHEN YuFei and in WD CHEN Qing Chen/JIA Yi Fan China’s athletes must be optimistic that they will be unbeaten through the entire tournament.

The battle for second place must be between Taiwan and Spain – both teams with an iconic singles player at their head. Carolina is back after her second major injury layoff and although she won the title at the European Championships she is 20% off her best. That still means she is an exceptional player, but she needs games to fine tune her net play and to eliminate mistakes. Rumours are swirling around that she wont be playing at all; she’s sitting out the first tie against Taiwan so after that we’ll have to wait and see. TAI Tzu Ying should be able to lead Taiwan to second place but the heavy-lifting of progress is going to come down to the desire and tactics of teammates of both superstars.

Group C: Thailand, Denmark, Malaysia, Egypt.

Thailand are in a tough group but if they can win it they must fancy their chances of a semi-final or better. In WS May and Mew along with Busanan are capable of great wins; in WD Prajongjai/Kitithatakul will face tough games against Denmark and Malaysia and these results could be crucial to their progress. I wish Popor was part of their squad.

It’s hard to write off Malaysia against Denmark for second spot. The Danes have the edge in singles, but doubles is more even. Analysts are favouring the Europeans, but Malaysia has talent; if they get their winning momentum then they could get through.

Group D: Korea, Canada, India, USA.

Korea must be strong favourites with their foundation of exceptional WD blended with AN Se Young in singles. None of the other 3 in this group will be able to equal them so once again the debate will be around who can come second. I’m hesitant about the Indian team; some of the selection decisions were controversial and it’s arguable that they have subsequently had no luck regarding injuries. Of course, PV Sindhu is one of the best singles players in the world, but she cannot win the trophy singlehanded. It’s so disappointing that the duo of Treesa Jolly & Gayatri Gopichand Pullela who were brilliant at the All England this year have had to withdraw. Canada’s team can challenge because they have a balance of good quality singles and doubles, and perhaps a bit more depth.

Conclusions

China must be confident that they can defend this trophy as they just ooze all-round quality. However, sport can be unpredictable and the Japanese team could upset Chinese hopes so long as they are all playing to their maximum. There’s so much to look forward to in this tournament including Group B H2H between TAI Tzu Ying and CHEN YuFei, Misaki guest-starring in Women’s Doubles, and – as usual – Nozomi cheerleading from the sidelines with the rest of BirdJapan by her side. It’s going to be great!


If you enjoyed this then take a look at my Thomas Cup preview here https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2022/05/05/thomas-cup-2022-preview/ or my recent article about TAI Tzu Ying here https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2022/03/02/tai-tzu-ying-at-the-all-england/

Images courtesy BWF and Alamy.


©2022 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved

Featured

Thomas Cup 2022 Preview

Can Indonesia rekindle the spirit that delivered gold last October or will another squad challenge their possession of the coveted trophy?  History tells us that this tournament tends to be dominated by Asia’s players so although 16 teams are travelling to Bangkok it will be a shock if badminton’s status quo is upset.

Image courtesy BWF

This is the 32nd time that the event has taken place and it starts with the sixteen teams split into four groups for the Round Robin portion of the competition. The top two in each group will advance into the draw for the quarter finals and this is where the battles become brutal. Some players thrive under pressure but these knockout stages and subsequent pathway to the podium will expose weaknesses. The athletes and coaches with a mental edge are the ones who will triumph.

Group A: Indonesia, Korea, Thailand, Singapore.

As defending champions Indonesia can step back onto court optimistic that they have the players who can repeat last October’s victory. Marcus Gideon is still rehabbing from ankle surgery but Kevin Sukamuljo has travelled to Bangkok so he will partner someone else if needed. The strength in depth of the MD cadre should give opponents nightmares. It is stuffed with winners. In singles, the red-hot form of Jonatan Christie was kick-started by his Thomas Cup heroics last time and he must be solid in his results now because Anthony Ginting has no winning momentum since his bronze at the Olympics.

Thailand are the home team but I think they will struggle to escape the group because Korea’s men have performed well lately. The fight for the second spot will be between these two although Singapore can expect LOH Kean Yew to make life difficult for everyone he faces.

Group B: Denmark, China, France, Algeria.

This is such an intriguing group; I’m excited to see who emerges from it. For Denmark, Viktor Axelsen is virtually unstoppable these days whilst Antonsen, Vittinghus and Gemke can all create winning opportunities in matches. The MD pairs can usually mix it with the best so it was a surprise that they won no medal at the recent European Championships. They must step up a level if they want to mount a realistic challenge for the cup. Behind Denmark, France is probably the second best team in Europe right now and they have sent six European Junior champions to Bangkok. They will need a hard miracle to get to the knockouts but they are building a formidable side.

Only a fool would describe any Chinese team as ‘weak’ so lets flip that and say they don’t look invincible. No SHI Yu Qi and an evolving MD landscape means that it’s hard to predict how far they can go, nevertheless it’s China and that means badminton success. This is a wait and see situation.

Group C: India, Taiwan, Germany, Canada

I’d love this Indian team to realise their potential and get to a Semi-Final. Sen is the man of the moment – his fearless competitiveness at the All England was scintillating – add in Kidambi and Prannoy and MS looks strong. In MD Rankireddy/Shetty will trouble everyone they meet so barring injuries this group of athletes could win their group.

After a long absence from the international stage LEE Yang/ WANG Chi-Lin are back for Team Taiwan. The Tokyo MD Gold medalists plus CHOU Tien Chen should have enough to escape Group C along with India but Germany might run them close. Mark Lamsfuss was outstanding at the recent European Championships so along with his partner Marvin Seidel may fancy his chances of an upset or two.

Group D: Japan, Malaysia, England, USA

Both Japan or Malaysia could get to the semi-finals of this competition. Japan’s strength in MD will probably decide who tops the group although Momota’s alarming dip in form compared to the rise of LEE Zii Jia could keep things very close. The English team will want to scrap for some results and they could see some encouraging development but it’s not likely that they or the USA will progress.

Conclusions

Indonesia’s quality is going to be hard to beat; the squad is stuffed full of proven top 10 players. However retaining a title is notoriously tricky. China and Denmark are probable medalists but they both will want their ‘fringe’ players to be ready to force results when the pressure is high. Other than these three then Japan, Malaysia or India could push through but they will need intelligent strategy blended with stamina and no injuries. There will be a few surprises along the way and the team who can cope with this will be the one with their hands on the Thomas Cup.


If you enjoyed this then take a look at my review of Indonesia’s triumph in 2021 here https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/10/17/indonesia-win-the-thomas-cup/


©2022 Amanda Bloss All Rights Reserved