Thomas & Uber Cup 2020: What are Asia's chances?
The Thomas-Uber Cup 2020 is getting closer. A month from now, the event will be held in Aarhus, Denmark. How will the competition play out?
Four years ago in China, a new history was created. For the first time ever, a country outside of Asia was able to win the Thomas Cup. This was after Denmark beat Indonesia with a score of 3-2 in the final of the men's badminton team championship.
It’s a moment that deserved to be recorded in badminton history because since 1949, no country outside of Asia has been able to lift the Thomas Cup trophy. Indonesia is the country with the most titles with 13, followed by China with 10 titles.
Who has the biggest chance to win the Thomas Cup this year? Indonesia as the country with the most titles, China which always has superior quality, or Denmark which holds the status as the host?
From all frontrunners that was posted by the BWF (Badminton World Federation), Indonesia is indeed a strong candidate by occupying the top seed. The reasoning is that Indonesia has a strong composition in both singles and doubles. In men’s singles, the country has Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in sixth position and his compatriot, Jonatan Christie, one step below him.
Meanwhile for doubles, Indonesia is even more powerful. The top two men's doubles pairs are dominated by Indonesia with Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in first place and the senior pair Hendra Setiawan / Mohammad Ahsan.
However, that doesn't mean Indonesia doesn't have weaknesses. Anthony Sinisuka Ginting (Ginting), and Jonatan (Jojo) Christie, are often unstable and often when the strength and ability of both of them are needed. This is crucial because losing one number in three single numbers puts the country in a dangerous position.
Marcus Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya aka “The Minions” are also not too superior when competing in team numbers. Both of them often underperform. While age continues to mature Hendra Setiawan/Mohammad Ahsan, as known as “The Daddies”, it also makes their moves slower which turn the couple into a target of competing countries in men’s doubles.
Indonesia will meet their first tough rival starting from the preliminary. Malaysia has prepared themselves well. One of Indonesia's closest neighbors already understands its opponent's innards. Team Malaysia is backed with great Indonesian coaches to defeat their rivals, they are Hendrawan at men’s singles, Indra Wijaya at women’s singles, Flandy Limpele at men’s doubles and lastly Paulus Firman at mixed doubles.
On paper, Indonesia can easily win. However, at this point, anything can just turn around especially because it’s been quite a long while for all players since the last time they compete in tournaments.
In the men's singles, Malaysia has Lee Zii Jia who is currently on the rise. With his last milestone in reaching the semifinals, he has a good chance of contributing points when facing Indonesia. We can expect Zii Jia to beat Indonesia’s singles. It will be a challenge for Malaysia in the other 4 numbers, particularly in the doubles.
The other strong champion candidate is Denmark, the host of this year’s Thomas & Uber Cup. Denmark’s composition is at par with Indonesia if not stronger. Amongst other countries, they have two of the toughest player in men’s singles: Anders Antonsen (world’s #3 in men’s singles) and Viktor Axelsen (world’s #4 in men’s singles). In the best case scenario, they only need to win one out of three other numbers -- one single and two doubles -- and they are on their way to be the champion.
Rasmus Gemke, the third single from Denmark is not out of quality. He is currently #17 at BWF men’s singles ranking. It appears that they could rely on their singles players, having 2 of the world’s best out of 3 players as part of Denmark’s Thomas team.
In the doubles, Denmark’s strength has declined. Having the legendary pair Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen already retired might impact on the team’s strength. They can only rely on Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen as they are currently one of the strongest pairs in men’s doubles.
Another factor that might add to Denmark’s chance of winning the Thomas Cup is that they are in fact the host of the competition. Even though they will compete without spectators, the spirit to not put shame on the homeland will be a source of strength for the Denmark team. This is the spirit that might explode and become a threat to Asia’s strengths.
Besides Indonesia and Denmark, other countries that have great ambitions and a chance to lift the Thomas Cup trophy are China and Japan.
China is no longer as superior as they used to.
In this year’s Thomas Cup, world’s badminton living legend Lin Dan will not be part of the team as the 2 times Olympic gold medalist has retired from badminton. Their first single player, Chen Long, is no longer the unbeatable Chen Long. All first single players from other prominent countries have a good chance to beat the Rio 2016 Olympic gold medalist. The second singles player, Shi Yu Qi, is no longer leaving his opponents breathless. Moreover, China’s third single player, Lu Guang Zhu, hasn’t been tested yet in terms of quality and capability. China’s fierce men double’s Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen are not backed by second and third doubles that are as strong.
But even with the current set of players, China’s position as defending champions indicates that they are no less dangerous than ever before.
The other country with a strong potential to make a surprise is Japan. With world’s number 1 Kento Momota, it’s almost certain that Japan will gain points in the first matches. However, Japan needs to work really hard with their second and third single players Kanta Tsuneyama and Kenta Nishimoto to be able to keep up with Momota.
Japan could also be the dark horse with two solid doubles Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda and Hiroyuki Endo/Yuta Watanabe. Their position as world’s number 4 and 5 make the Land of Rising Sun can only be rivaled by Indonesia.
The heat of this year’s competition keeps Thomas Cup’s prestige intact even after Taiwan announced that they won’t be joining due to Covid-19 situation. Without Taiwan on board, the world will not be able to see top of the world best players, Chou Tien Chieh (world’s #2 at men’s singles) and Tai Tzu Ying world’s #1 at women’s singles).
Thomas & Uber Cup 2020 marks the comeback of badminton after a long break due to Covid-19 pandemic. We are beyond excited to see the world’s best players back in action and whether Asia will be able to lift both Thomas & Uber trophies.