Sports

Shi Yuqi stuns Kento Momota as China lift Sudirman Cup

Shi Yuqi came from behind to shock world badminton champion Kento Momota as hosts China whitewashed Japan for an 11th Sudirman Cup title yesterday.

Japan have never won the badminton world mixed-team championship and their search continues after they lost 3-0 in the final in Nanning, China.

The hosts' dominant victory over the top seeds is an ominous sign of the depth they possess in their ranks with next summer's Tokyo Olympics on the horizon.

Roared on by the home crowd, China went 1-0 up through their men's doubles pair of Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen, who beat Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe 21-18, 21-10.

They then took a 2-0 lead after a captivating women's singles final between Chen Yufei and Akane Yamaguchi.

Chen also had to rally for her 17-21, 21-16, 21-17 win in 1hr 21min.

Japan, who were also thumped 3-0 by China in their maiden final in Dongguan four years ago, needed their talisman Momota to beat Shi in the men's singles final to keep the tie alive.

The world No. 1 had defeated second-ranked Shi four times in five previous meetings, including last year's world championships final.

It looked like more of the same when Momota, 24, won the first game 21-15, but Shi found rhythm and his subdued Japanese rival faded spectacularly.

Shi, 23, raced to the second game 21-5 and took that momentum into the decider, winning the third game - and with it the Sudirman Cup - 21-11.

He sealed the championship with a smash and was mobbed by his teammates, who raced onto the court after his upset.

Momota said it had been "a painful lesson" and admitted that he had felt the pressure, knowing he had to win to keep Japan in the final.

"I was surprised that Shi played this well," he added, conceding that the rousing home support had affected him. - AFP

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