Updated: May 16, 2014 01:49 IST

From Asian domination to Chinese monopoly

Rakesh Rao
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STANDING TALL: Indonesia became Thomas Cup champion five times in succession from 1994 to 2002 mainly because of the quality of players such as Rudy Hartono. PHOTO: PTI
STANDING TALL: Indonesia became Thomas Cup champion five times in succession from 1994 to 2002 mainly because of the quality of players such as Rudy Hartono. PHOTO: PTI

BADMINTON: Brilliant China shows no signs of relenting

In a sport that took its name from Badminton House, the Duke of Beaufort’s residence in Gloucestershire (now Avon), it is ironical to find the domination of the Asian nations so complete that a European nation is yet to find a mention on the Roll of Honours of Thomas Cup and Uber Cup.

These trophies, symbol of team supremacy separately for men and women, have stayed only in USA and Asia since their inception.

Since 1949, in 27 editions of Thomas Cup, only Indonesia (13 times), China (nine) and Malaysia (five) have emerged champions.

Interestingly, these nations also won on debut — Malaysia (as Malaya) in 1949, Indonesia in 1958 and China in 1982.

In contrast, Denmark, the most dominant European nation, at best finished runner-up on eight occasions, the last being in 2006.

It is also interesting to note that through times, the Danish players — from Finn Kobbero to Peter Gade — did match the top Asians in individual events but came a cropper as a team.

The Asian ownership, began with Malaysia, served well by Wong Peng Soon before Indonesia came along and shifted the power equation by riding on the skills of Ferry Sonneville.

Memorable moment

Malaysia, winner of the first three editions in 1949, 1952, 1955 and again in 1967, enjoyed its most memorable moment in Thomas Cup history in 1992. Coached by China's Yang Yang (with inputs coming from his compatriots Han Jian and Chen Chengjie) Malaysia upstaged defending champion China in the semifinals 3-2. Backed by a vociferous home crowd, the Malaysians scored a similar victory over Indonesia for a historic triumph.

Indonesia won seven out of eight finals between 1958 and 1979 before regaining the title in 1984.

After four unsuccessful campaigns, two of which ended in finals, Indonesia became champion five times in succession from 1994 to 2002.

Indonesia’s titles came mainly because of the quality of talent in doubles that complemented the prowess of its singles players.

In singles, Ferry Sonneville, Rudy Hartono. Liem Swie King, Alan Budi Kusuma, Icuk Sugiarto, Joko Suprianto, Aeryanto Arbi, Hendrawan and Taufik Hidayat held hopes.

In doubles, World championship gold medallists Rudy Gunawan, Ricky Subagja, Rexy Mainaky, Candra Wijaya, Sigit Budiarto, Halim Haryanto and Tony Gunawan played their part.

In Uber Cup, too, after USA won the first three editions, Asian nations have dominated. China (12 times), Japan (five), Indonesia (three) and Korea (one) have lifted the Cup. Here, too, Denmark kept alive the European challenge by reaching the final thrice.

Unique win

Japan, a major force between 1966 and 1981, has never been the same. China broke Japan’s record to become the first nation to win the title for the sixth time in 1998.

Since then only Korea has interrupted China’s streak by pulling off a stunning 3-1 verdict in the 2010 final.

Indonesia, which has lost seven finals, has ceased to be a serious contender to the title. In fact, after being dethroned in the 1998 final, Indonesia had to wait until 2008 to reach the title-clash.

After World and Olympic champion Susi Susanti, who helped the team win Uber Cup in 1994 and 1996, Indonesia has not found a true world beater. Even in doubles, Indonesia is struggling to put together combinations capable of beating the best.

As things stand, Indonesia, Japan and Korea will find it very difficult to regain the title, particularly with China showing no signs of relenting.

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