Badminton Olympic medallists Jia and Chen deliver a twelth Sudirman Cup for China 

The reigning champions defeated Japan 3-1 in a thrilling final to lift the cup for the twelfth time in the tournament's history.

Picture by Badmintonphoto | Courtesy of BWF

China lived up to their billing as the giants of badminton with a 3-1 over Japan to retain the Sudriman Cup in Vantaa, Finland on Sunday (3 October).

Women's doubles Olympic silver medallists Jia Yi Fan and Chen Qing Chen delivered the winning point that allowed their nation to lift the cup for the twelfth time since the inaugural tournament in 1989.

It's the third time Japan has finished runners-up in the mixed team world championships. It was their best challenge for the title yet, having previously lost 3-0 in 2019 and 2015.

In 2021, their sole point came courtesy of Yamaguchi Akane, who beat reigning Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei in their singles clash.

The first match of the day saw men's doubles pairs He Ji Ting and Zhou Hao Dong from China and Japan's Hoki Takuro and Kobayashi Yugo face off.

The Chinese pair were looking to make amends for when they lost the opening match of the quarter-final against Denmark.

He and Zhao took the opening game but the Japanese pair fought back in the second to force a decider. The pairs were tied up at 6-6 in the final game before the Chinese duo found an extra gear to seal the match, 21-17, 14-21, 21-16, and deliver the opening point for China.

China's He Ji Ting and Zhou Hao Dong celebrate after winning their match in the 2021 Sudirman Cup final
Picture by Badmintonphoto | Courtesy of BWF

Japan hit back

Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei was next on court for China against world number five Yamaguchi Akane.

Chen spent over an hour on court during two grueling encounters in the quarters and semis, being stretched to deciding games on both occasions.

Despite getting off to the stronger start in the final, Chen soon found herself tied with Yamaguchi 10-10 in the opening game before her opponent pulled away after the mid-game interval to win the first game.

The second game saw a repeat of the first with the world number two surging ahead but Yamaguchi, clearly the fresher of the two, won the match 21-19, 21-16 to become the first player to beat the reigning Olympic champion since Tokyo 2020.

Yamaguchi's victory levelled the overall final scores to 1-1 overall.

Yamaguchi Akane of Japan beats China's Chen Yu Fei in the 2021 Sudirman Cup final
Picture by Badmintonphoto | Courtesy of BWF

Shi restores the lead for China

Next up was the men's singles.

Going into the match, China's Shi Yuqi had only ever beaten Japan's Momota Kento once in their five encounters. But the Chinese player has been showing good form while the world number one has had a very slow start to the year after returning to competition at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Reigning world champion Momota, who lost his semi-final match the day previously, found himself trailing after a the opening game, but fought back convincingly in the second to force a decider.

However, Shi returned rediscovered his best form to race to a 7-point lead at the mid-game changeover. Momota, perhaps fatigued from playing in all but one of Japan's encounters this week, could not find a response as Shi sealed the win, 21-13, 8-21, 21-12 to regain the overall lead for China, 2-1.

Game, set, match China

The defending champion's first opportunity to retain the crown came in the women's doubles through recently-crowned Olympic silver medallists and 2017 world champions Jia Yi Fan and Chen Qing Chen.

They faced a scratch pairing from Japan made up of Rio 2016 gold medallist Misaki Matsutomo and two-time world champion Mayu Matsumoto, who secured victories in the quarter-finals and semi-finals.

However it was the experienced Chinese pair who were more confident and comfortable on court from the off and took the opening game.

The second game proved more closely-fought affair as the Japanese duo found their rhythm. But a determined Jia and Chen seemed intent on not allowing the game to drag into a decider.

They kept on the offensive and smashed their way to victory and the title, winning the match 21-17, 21-16, as China beat Japan 3-1 to clinch the 2021 Sudirman Cup.

China's winning streak continues

China holds the record for winning the title twelve times, with South Korea and Indonesia the only other nations to have lifted the cup.

Celebrations will be short for the Chinese squad as they move straight on to another title defence in the Thomas Cup competition, before the Uber Cup.

Japan, will home to bounce back to defend the Uber Cup when the events get underway in Aarhus, Denmark from 9-17 October.