In one of the classiest results of a Thomas Cup final, Denmark defeated 13-time winners Indonesia and made history. Since the inception of the tournament in 1949, Denmark had reached the final on 8 occasions but always failed to cross the last hurdle. They reversed the trend on Sunday by getting their act together. It was a closely fought tie with the result hanging on the deciding last singles match. To the greatest delight of the Danish fans, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus kept his nerves in check against Ihsan Maulana Mustofa and in two easy games, led his nation to the historic victory. This is also the first time that a European country has won the world team title in badminton. With Denmark’s victory on Sunday in the 29th Thomas Cup in 67 years, four other nations have won the coveted cup. Indonesia have won it for 13 times, China 9 times and Malaysia 5 times. In the 2014 tournament at New Delhi, Japan won the Thomas Cup for the first time and at Kunshan on Sunday, Denmark also clinched the first-time winner’s tag.
Denmark began their Thomas Cup campaign with a 5-0 whitewash of South Africa on May 16 and followed that up with a similar victory over New Zealand next day. They had their first tough match against Taiwan on May 18 but came through to the playoff stage with a 3-2 win. In the quarterfinal, Denmark defeated defending champions Japan 3-2 on May 19 and played brilliantly in the semifinal on May 20 to defeat Malaysia. In the final on Sunday, Denmark had to deal with 13-time champions Indonesia, who were the heavy favorites after China exited the competition.
In the first match of the championship tie, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen played against Tommy Sugiarto. Axelsen began strongly in the first game and kept himself ahead for most part. Sugiarto fought hard but Axelsen didn’t look like losing his momentum. Best the Indonesian could do was to save a game point before the Dane won at 21-17. Sugiarto bounced back in the second game and had a 13-8 lead even as Axelsen made a few errors. Sugiarto still led at 18-15 but the Dane reeled off six straight points to take the game and the match 21-17, 21-18 to put Denmark 1-0 ahead.
The second match was the doubles between Denmark’s Mads Pieler Kolding-Mads/Conrad Petersen and Mohd Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan. The Indonesians were far too good for the Danes despite Kolding/Petersen leading 13-8 in the first game. In the end however, the classy Indonesians took the match at 21-18, 21-13 in 41 minutes.
With the tie leveled at 1-1, the next match between Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen and Anthony Ginting was a crunch game since the Danes don’t have strong doubles teams. Jorgensen banked on his experience and kept the enthusiastic Ginting at bay. He opened a huge lead in first game but Ginting fought back to come within two points at one stage. However, Jorgensen prevailed in the end to take the first game 21-17 from the 20-year-old Ginting. In the second game, Jorgensen was at his devastating best and offered the young Indonesian no leeway. The match ended in Jorgensen’s favor at 21-17, 21-12 and Denmark went 2-1 up.
In the second doubles game that followed, the Denmark pair of Kim Astrup-Anders/Skaarup Rasmussen couldn’t stand to the guile and firepower of Indonesia’s Angga Pratama-Ricky/Karanda Suwardi. The Danes took an early lead, but they were overtaken by Pratama-Ricky/Suwardi. The Indonesians took the first game 21-16 and played even better in the second. The Danes looked perplexed against a barrage of shots from Pratama-Ricky/Suwardi to yield the match 16-21, 14-21.
Now the tie score had reached 2-2 and everything hung on the last singles match between Han-Kristian Vittinghus and Ihsan Maulana Mustofa. The experience of Vittinghus was pitted against the enthusiasm of the young Ihsan. Surprisingly for Denmark, Ihsan couldn’t offer much resistance to the Dane, who looked calm and collected throughout the match. After Vittinghus easily took the first game 21-15, Ihsan caved in under pressure in the second. The 21-year old Ihsan committed too many errors in the vital match and Vittinghus grew in confidence as the game progressed. Without too much trouble, Vittinghus sealed the match and the championship in Denmark’s favor with a crushing 21-15, 21-7 victory. On winning the final point, Vittinghus screamed in delight as his teammates rushed to the court to celebrate together. It was a long wait for Denmark but they finally reached where they have been wanting, all these years.