Japan down Malaysia to claim maiden Thomas Cup title
New Delhi: Takuma Ueda prevailed in a thrilling decider as Japan claimed their maiden Thomas Cup title by edging out five-times champions Malaysia 3-2 in a pulsating final of the men`s team event on Sunday.
World number one Lee Chong-Wei salvaged personal pride by beating Kenichi Tago 21-12 21-16 in the first singles but the contest eventually boiled down to the fifth match and Ueda held his nerve to help Japan taste success in their maiden final appearance at the biennial tournament.
"I was under pressure before the start of the game but... was determined to win. I have not experienced anything like this before," a dazed Ueda told reporters after beating Daren Liew 21-12 18-21 21-17.
After waging a grim battle for one hour and 18 minutes, Liew dropped his racket in dismay when his smash sailed wide, dashing Malaysia`s hopes of winning their first Thomas Cup title since 1992.
Across the net, a jubilant Ueda collapsed on the court before getting up to join his dancing team mates who had formed a ring around him.
"I could not win Thomas Cup as a player and I`m happy that I won as a coach," said Japan`s Korean coach Park Joo Bong, hoping a successful campaign that included semi-final victory over formidable China would raise badminton`s profile back home.
Lee, who said reaching the final was a "bonus" for Malaysia, put his team ahead but Japan won the next two contests to snatch the lead.
Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo eked out a 12-21 21-17 21-19 victory over Tan Boon Heong and Hoon Thien How in 76 minutes to level before Kento Momota downed Chong Wei Feng 21-15 21-17 to put Japan ahead.
Malaysia crawled back into the contest with Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong claiming the second doubles 19-21 21-17 21-12.
World number 25 Ueda walked out for the decider against Liew, 41 rungs below him in world rankings, and looked under pressure in the second game when he squandered a four-point lead to his dogged rival who forced the third game.
The final game was a neck-and-neck affair and Ueda soaked in tremendous pressure before emerging victorious.
"We are very happy to have won what we never could win," Park said.
"There was tremendous pressure but our focus was very strong today and I think we handles pressure better than Malaysia," the coach added.