Japan ended China's reign on the men's team championship when they hammered the defending champions 3-0 in the semifinals of the 2014 Thomas and Uber Cup here on Friday. While their men lost, Chinese women continued their supremacy in the Uber Cup, mauling Korea 3-0.
Japan's domination of the Chinese men's team -- unbeaten since 2004 -- was so absolute that China just about managed to win one game in the three matches and that too after saving a couple of game points.
The stage for the upset was set by world number four Kenichi Tago, who humbled world number two Chen Long 21-13, 21-11 in 43 minutes to hand the Chinese their first defeat in the competition.
The defending champions would have thought that the loss would be a mere aberration, but the Japanese had some other plans. It looked like China's Biao Chai and Wei Hong would set the record straight when they took a 20-16 lead in the first game. But they inexplicably lost nerve and the game and eventually the match.
With world champion Lin Dan scheduled to play the third singles, all the Chinese needed was to stretch that match till the fifth rubber but former junior world champion Kento Momota wasn't going to be an easy prey for world number six Pengyu Du as the latter found it the hard way.
The 19-year-old Japanese did drop the first game after wasting two game points but then raised the tempo with clinical smashing and net play to upset Du 23-25, 21-18, 21-14 to send the team into their maiden Thomas Cup final.
"We were always targeting the Chinese as we thought they were beatable despite the fact that they had very good singles players. I am happy that I got a chance to finish things off," said Momota after the match.
But Japan's Korean coach Joo Bong Park was surprised win the 3-0 scoreline. "It (the win) came as a big surprise to us all. What was even more surprising was the way Momota won the second singles against Du. If he had not, then the tie could have gone either way with Lin Dan to play the third singles," said Park.
Japan will now take on the winners of the second semifinal between Indonesia and Malaysia.