China’s women gifted home fans their 14th Uber Cup title with a comfortable win over Korea in the TOTAL BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals 2016 today in Kunshan.
But for a slip in the first Women’s Doubles, China had the upper hand in all the matches, winning the final with the same margin, 3-1, as in the last edition.
China’s Head Coach Li Yongbo hailed the performance as “perfect”.
“This is our best result of 2016. We were hoping to win 3-0, but then we couldn’t have fielded our young pair in the second doubles (Tang Yuanting and Chen Qingchen). So maybe we should be thankful for our loss in the first doubles. Our young players displayed great mental strength; they were very strong. I’m so proud of them.”
Korea were heavily dependent on Sung Ji Hyun and the two doubles taking their matches, for Bae Yeon Ju’s injury in the semi-finals had ruled her out of the final in the second singles. Sung started brightly against Li Xuerui, moving well and constantly manoeuvring her opponent out of position to fire winners and go a set ahead.
From the middle of the second game, however, Li started to bring her ‘A’ game – sheer athleticism helping her return Sung’s winning shots. The Korean looked deflated after her best shot – the reverse crosscourt slice from the deep backhand corner – was returned by Li despite being caught out late. The final game went by in a flash and China were 1-0 up.
“I was a bit edgy to begin with but once I grew in confidence I could handle the pressure of delivering the first point for China,” said Li.
The first doubles brought Korea back into the contest. Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan matched World champions Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei shot for shot after a slow start, gaining ascendancy as the match progressed. With Jung and Shin prepared to engage their opponents in long rallies and alternately taking on attacking duties, cracks started to appear in the Chinese combination. Trailing with the end in sight, Zhao and Tian made a surge at the end, holding three match points, but Jung and Shin saved all three and converted their own second opportunity for a thrilling victory: 16-21 21-17 25-23.
UC Finals_Tang Yuanting & Chen Qingchen“We were prepared to play a one-and-a-half hour match if necessary,” said Jung. “We had nothing to lose, we just had to keep trying. We were nervous at the end but we trusted each other and things went well for us.”
Kim Hyo Min, appearing in the second singles, stood little chance against Wang Shixian’s pace, power and range of shots. The Korean nevertheless refused to buckle tamely, showing heart and chasing down shuttles all around court. Wang finished winner in 45 minutes, 21-13 21-12.
“The situation was similar to the 2014 final when I went in after the loss of the first doubles,” said Wang Shixian, referring to the final against Japan. “I’ve played in a few matches at this event, ranging from the difficult (against Carolina Marin) to the relatively easy (against Kim Hyo Min). I believe I’m getting to my best condition gradually.”
China fielded the young combination of Tang Yuanting and Chen Qingchen against Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee. Despite Chen’s lack of experience at this level, the World Junior champion was all hustle and bustle, exuberant at every point won and thriving on the crowd’s energy. Chang and Lee were eventually overwhelmed by the constant barrage that they faced, and China comfortably made it home: 21-14 21-16.
“I’ve usually played with an older partner; this is the first time I’m playing with someone younger than me,” said Tang Yuanting. “Chen Qingchen has no experience in team events at this level, but she did a fantastic job. At this level, your mental condition is more important than your technique or power.”
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR