Busanan Ongbamrungphan clinches her fist after sealing Thailand’s historic victory against China. / Nation Photo by Korbphuk Phromrekha
Busanan Ongbamrungphan clinches her fist after sealing Thailand’s historic victory against China. / Nation Photo by Korbphuk Phromrekha

Thais oust champions China after six-hour thriller

sports May 26, 2018 01:00

By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
The Nation

5,637 Viewed

Thailand yesterday upset 14-time champions China 3-2 to reach the Uber Cup final for the first time after keeping 3,000 home fans enthralled for six and a half hours at the Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani.

The Kingdom went one better than their previous best, the 2012 semi-finals, and one after another the players paid tribute to the value of the home support in their post-match interviews.

Busanan in a post match interview

After both nations were locked tight at 2-2, Busanan Ongbamrungphan again won the decider – she had also clinched victory in the deciding rubber against Indonesia on Thursday – as she beat the former Olympic gold medalist Li Xuerui 21-11, 21-9, propelling Thailand into the final for the first time in 61 years. 

Li is currently world-ranked 233 after returning from a 22-month break following a knee injury.

World No 4 Ratchanok Intanon gave Thailand to a great start, beating world No 5 Chen Yufei for the first time in five attempts.

“I was checking our head-to-head in the morning and tried to figure out what went wrong in the past. In fact I came close to beating her before but I just didn’t play my game,” said the former world No 1 Ratchanok after her 15-21 21-9 21-14 victory.

“But unlike the past, I played my best against her for the first time. Probably it was support from the fans that pushed me to stay in the rallies longer than usual.”

China levelled in the first doubles rubber when world No 1 and current world champions Chen Qinchen and Jia Yifan came from behind in both games to beat inspired world No 8 pairing of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai 21-17 22-20. 

In the second singles, Thai No 2 Nitchaon Jindapol shrugged off a sluggish start to beat rising Chinese star Gao Fangjie 19-21 21-19 21-12 and restore the home side’s lead. 

The world No 11 reckoned she had salvaged her pride after being below her best in Thursday’s tie against Malaysia.

Nitchaon Jindapol 

“I’m proud of myself to have finally overcome the pressure,” said Thailand Masters champion Nitchaon, who sustained bruising to her right knee after falling on court several times. Today I showed that I was able to summon my top form despite the tension.

“I chased down shots and fell a lot. But that’s nothing to worry about. What is more important is the fans really drove us to fight hard out there. It really meant a lot to us,” said the 27-year-old from Phuket.

China then levelled the tie against as Huang Yaqiong and Tang Jinhua bounced back from a first-game deficit to pip Puttita Supajirakul and Sapsiree Taerattanachai 26-28 21-17 21-18 in a marathon battle that took one hour and 38 minutes.

In the other semi-final, top seeds Japan had a much easier time as they edged past South Korea 3-1. 

World No 2 Akane Yamaguchi beat Sung Ji Hyun 21-10 21-13 but Kim So Yeong before Shin Seung Chan hauled South Korea back into it with a 21-19 21-15 win over Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota.

Thereafter, however, it was all Japan as world champion Nazomi Okuhara beat Lee Jang Mi 21-9 21-15 before Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi wrapped up victory with a 21-11 17-21 21-14 over Baek Ha Na and Lee Yu Rim.

In the men's Thomas Cup semi-finals, nine-time champions China beat South Korea 3-1 to set up the Sunday' s final with Japan who outlast defending champion Denmark 3-2.

Chen Long of China