Dubai: Defending champions China and Japan have been handed out comparatively easy groups after draws were made for the 31st Thomas Cup and 28th Uber Cup to be held in Aarhus, Denmark, in the first half of October.
With Indonesia and Japan as the top seeds for the Thomas Cup and Uber Cup respectively, this year’s Total BWF Thomas and Uber Cup Finals are on course to make history as the first co-hosted finals in Europe when the competition is held in Aarhus, from October 3-11.
The Thomas and Uber Cup is the most prestigious men’s and women’s team competitions in badminton — something akin to the Fifa World Cup in football or the Davis Cup in tennis. The biennial contest is for two trophies — one 71cm high and the Uber Cup just 45.7cm high — to decide the world’s strongest teams.
In the Thomas Cup, top seeds and former 13-time champions Indonesia will have to tackle Malaysia, Netherlands and England in Group A, while 2018 defending champions China will be up against Chinese Taipei, Australia and France in Group B.
Hosts Denmark — who finished third along with Indonesia two years back in Bangkok, Thailand — have been pitted with India, Germany and Algeria in Group C, while Group D consists of runners-up Japan, South Korea, Thailand and Canada.
In the women’s Uber Cup, champions Japan will take on Chinese Taipei, Egypt and Spain in Group A, while South Korea will be up against Indonesia, Australia and Malaysia in Group B. Runners-up last time out, Thailand are in Group C along with hosts Denmark, Scotland and Canada, while Group D looks the strongest as China will take on India, France and Germany.
BWF Chief Operating Officer Stuart Borrie who was one of the few officials present at the draws ceremony in Kuala Lumpur earlier this week struck a note of caution. “We acknowledge the many disruptions this year to our calendar but we would like to assure you that the BWF continues to monitor the ongoing developments surrounding COVID-19 and to plan for a safe return to international badminton,” he said.
“We trust everyone within the badminton community is keeping safe and well and preparing for the return to international competition.”
In the men’s Thomas Cup, Indonesia lead the way with 13 titles, while China are second with nine to their name. The powerhouses suffered shock semi-final defeats in the 2014 edition, and Japan went on to take their first-ever title beating Malaysia in an exciting final in New Delhi.
History was made in 2016 when Denmark became the first non-Asian team to win the Thomas Cup.
Hosts China fell in the quarter-finals to South Korea, who, in turn, lost to Indonesia. Denmark, having beaten defending champions Japan in the quarter-finals and Malaysia in the semi-finals, completed their fairy-tale run while clinching the trophy with a 3-2 result over Indonesia.
In the Uber Cup, Japan easily sidestepped hosts Thailand 3-0 in the final last time out, picking up their first tournament title since 1981. China have dominated the tournament, with 14 titles. Japan are second with six.
In the 2018 final, Akane Yamaguchi defeated Ratchanok Intanon 21-15, 21-15, while Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota overcame Thai double players Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Puttita Supajirakul by 21-18, 21-12, before Nozomi Okuhara beat Nitchaon Jindapol 21-12, 21-9 to seal the win for Japan’s sixth title that came after a gap of 37 years.
The BWF Thomas and Uber Cup finals were initially scheduled to be held from August 15-23, but had to be postponed for October 3-11 following the coronavirus pandemic.
The Thomas Cup has come a long way — but it did not have an auspicious start. Shortly after Sir George proposed the idea for an international men’s team championships in 1939 — just five years after the IBF was founded — the Second World War broke out. The plan, however, was not shelved, and in 1946, at the Council’s first AGM since 1940, the men’s championship was planned for 1948-49 with nations divided into four zones — Pan American, Asian (East and West), Australia and European.
The competition was to be held once in three years, the format consisted of best-of-nine ties, namely five singles and four doubles. In the first final, Malaysia thrashed Denmark 8-1 and Sir George presented the trophy to winning captain Lim Chuan Geok.
The World Women’s Team Championships was proposed in 1950 by England’s great pre-War player Betty Uber with support from New Zealand’s Nancy Fleming. The competition eventually came into being in 1956-57.
2020 participating teams
Thomas Cup: Algeria, Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, England, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Netherlands, Thailand
Uber Cup: Australia, Canada, China, Chinese Taipei, Denmark, Egypt, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, South Korea, Malaysia, Scotland, Spain, Thailand