It took less than an hour for the men's doubles pair of Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen to dismantle the team of Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe 21-18, 21-10 to give China a 1-0 lead in the Sudirman Cup 2019 final on Sunday. Hosted by China, in the province of Nanning, the 2019 Sudirman Cup final is being contested by China and Japan. After rather easy wins in their respective semi-finals, the teams looked as fresh as ever in the summit clash. However, the individual brilliance of Liu Yuchen swung the match in China's favour.
The first game was powered by fast-paced exchanges that produced some excellent offense and jaw dropping defence. There was little to separate the two teams, until the score was tied at 18 apiece.
China's penetrating attack was relentless during the last few points of the first game. It caused some very unusual errors from the Japanese pair. Endo's loose return, when the Chinese pair held a one-point lead at 19-18, sealed the deal for the Chinese. Li finished the point with authority and secured a game point for the team.
The rally proved to be decisive as it changed the dynamics of the match. The confidence of the Chinese pair was at an all-time high. This was evidenced during the break, when the less-talkative Liu took charge of the coaching session between games. He was certainly pumped up to be playing for his country, in front of his home fans.
The second game was a relative whitewash. With little to hold back the relentless attack from the Chinese, the Japanese surrendered defeat to the team that, on the day, was better. Even the Japanese coaches did not have a ploy to thwart the strategic massacre of their players in the second game.
With Watanabe's loss in men's doubles, it remains to be seen if he can put the defeat behind him and bounce back, if required, to take to the court for the mixed doubles match that is scheduled to be the ultimate decider. The prospect of a 5th match is mouth watering to say the least.