Preview: All you need to know ahead of the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in 2021

Badminton's world men's and women's team championships, which was postponed in 2020, will get underway in Denmark on 9 October 2021. 

9 min By Sanjeev Palar
China celebrate after winning the 2021 Sudirman Cup
(Picture by Badmintonphoto | Courtesy of BWF)

Badminton's biennial Thomas and Uber Cup tournament, which was postponed last year due to the global pandemic, is set to take place in Aarhus, Denmark from 9 to 17 October.

Sixteen teams will contest the Thomas Cup, the world men's team championships, while another sixteen teams will compete in the Uber Cup, the women's equivalent, where China and Japan are the respective reigning champions.

Each match-up features a best-of-five format with three singles matches interlaced with two doubles matches.

It also marks the the second major tournament in three weeks for most of the players, who were also competing in the Sudirman Cup which concluded last Sunday (3 October) in Finland, where China lifted the mixed team world championship title for the twelfth time.

Ahead of this blue-riband event in Denmark, we take a closer look at some of things to look out for in this edition of the Thomas and Uber Cup, which we will also be streaming live on Olympics.com (Territorial restrictions may apply).

But don't worry if the live streams aren't available where you are, we have you covered.

We will also have a daily live blog throughout the tournament with regular updates featuring the latest results, highlights, news, interviews, tweets, and all the fun stuff that happens - as it happens.

To get you up to speed with the upcoming Thomas and Uber Cup Finals, here are some of the key things to look out for.

China looking to continue its wave of success

In the thirty editions of the Thomas Cup since the first final in1949, only five nations have managed to win the title, namely China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Japan and Denmark.

It might not surprise you that China has won six of the last eight titles and will arrive in Aarhus riding the wave of success having just lifted the Sudirman Cup days before.

The statistics are similar for the Uber Cup where China has won the title 14 times, more than any other nation in the 27 editions of the tournament.

As such the expectations will be high for them to once again dominate both tournaments.

However China arrive in Denmark with a relatively young squad that does not include some of their recent Olympic medallists.

The Thomas Cup squad will feature Shi Yuqi, who was part of the team that clinched the title in 2018. The 25-year-old recently beat world number one Momota Kento in the Sudirman Cup final and will lead the men's singles line up in the absence of Olympic champion and Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Chen Long.

Also missing is their highest-ranked men's doubles pair, Tokyo 2020 silver medallists Li Jun Hui and Liu Yu Chen. But they have included another 2018 title winning alumnus, Liu Cheng, who won the world title in 2017.

China are drawn into Group C along with India, the Netherlands and Tahiti, and are expected to top the group in their quest for their 11th Thomas Cup title.

China's Shi Yuqi celebrates after his Sudirman Cup final win
China's Shi Yuqi celebrates after his Sudirman Cup final win (Badmintonphoto | Courtesy of BWF)

The Chinese women's squad will be headlined by Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei, who played a big part in the Sudirman Cup success. They will also have Tokyo 2020 women's doubles silver medallists Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan on hand. All three were part of the team that succumbed to hosts Thailand in the 2018 edition and would be eager to reclaim the title.

China's Uber Cup team is in Group D along with hosts Denmark, Malaysia and Canada, and are also expected to top the group.

Japan aiming to bounce back

Japanese badminton has been on the rise and at the last edition they clinched the Uber Cup and lost to China in the finals of the Thomas Cup.

However the players arrive in Aarhus with plenty of question marks following a rather dismal outing at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, where none of the men's or women's singles nor doubles players managed to medal.

Momota Kento, who looked unstoppable prior to the global pandemic, has looked very vulnerable out on court in recent tournaments. The two-time world champion and world number one will captain the men's squad that features Tsuneyama Kanta and Nishimoto Kenta, who came close to clinching the crown in 2018.

Also on the squad is Watanabe Yuta, who won Olympic bronze in the mixed doubles event at Tokyo 2020, and, given the depth of the team, we can expect Japan to be one of the front-runners for the Thomas Cup title.

They are drawn in Group D along with Malaysia, Canada and England and should finish within the top two to qualify for the knock-out stage of the competition.

Japan's Momota Kento in action at the 2021 Sudirman Cup final 
Japan's Momota Kento in action at the 2021 Sudirman Cup final  (Badmintonphoto | Courtesy of BWF)

Japan's Uber Cup team will be keen to defend their title in Denmark.

Yamaguchi Akane was in top form at the Sudirman Cup, delivering newly-crowned Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei her first defeat since winning gold in Tokyo - which bodes well for them going into this tournament.

Also, given that two of the top three teams in the world are from Japan, world number one pairing of Fukushima Yuki and Hirota Sayaka and two-time world champions Matsumoto Mayu and Nagahara Wakana, there is depth in the team if they are able to field their strongest players, which could include world number five Okuhara Nozomi.

Japan's Uber Cup squad is drawn in Group A along with Indonesia, Germany and France.

Denmark hoping for home ground advantage

Denmark is the only non-Asian country to have won the Thomas Cup when they were victorious in 2016.

With Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen leading the way and Anders Antonsen also playing very well, the host nation fairs a pretty good chance if they are able to find similar success in their men's doubles pairings. Anders Rasmussen played in the Sudirman Cup but his regular partner, Kim Astrup, was out with injury.

The Danish scratch pairings that took to the court in the Sudirman Cup enjoyed some encouraging results, especially Rasmussen's partnership with Frederik Sogaard, who beat their Chinese opponents in the quarter-finals.

Denmark are in Group B along with South Korea, France and Germany and should progress past the group stage.

The Danish women's Uber Cup hopes will be led by Mia Blichfeldt. Their best finish in this tournament was making the semi-finals back in 2004 and have been drawn into Group D along with China, Malaysia and Canada.

Denmark's Viktor Axelsen at the 2021 Sudirman Cup
Denmark's Viktor Axelsen at the 2021 Sudirman Cup (Badmintonphoto | Courtesy of BWF)

Indonesia looking to rise

Southeast Asian giants Indonesia have won the Thomas Cup the most number of times, 13 in total.

However it's been 19 years since their last triumph and 25 years since they enjoyed success in the Uber Cup.

On paper, the Indonesian have all the components to mount a strong campaign in the men's event.

Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist Anthony Ginting is playing well on court and together with world number seven Jonatan Christie, they could get off to a good start in the match-ups. Coupled with the doubles pairing of Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sukamuljo, as well as Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan - who are world number one and two respectively - there is plenty of potential in the squad to deliver a strong result.

Indonesia are drawn into Group A along with Chinese Taipei, Algeria and Thailand.

The women's squad will be lifted by reigning Olympic champions Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu. However with their highest-ranked singles player, Gregoria Mariska Tunjung, currently 21st in the world, it would a tall order for the squad to progress should they make it out of Group A where they will face Japan, Germany and France.

Indonesia's Anthony Ginting at the 2021 Sudirman Cup
Indonesia's Anthony Ginting at the 2021 Sudirman Cup (Badmintonphoto | Courtesy of BWF)

Malaysia making ground

After winning the first three Thomas Cup titles when it was known as Malaya, Malaysia has had limited success in the Thomas Cup and have only managed to lift it on two other occasions, in 1967 as well as 1992.

The squad captained by Lee Zii Jia will look to him as well as Tokyo 2020 bronze medallists Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik to deliver points in all their matches. Soh's uncle, Soo Beng Kiang, was a men's doubles player who clinched the winning point to deliver the Cup for Malaysia in 1992 and he will no doubt be inspired to do the same.

However, the depth of the team will be tested with younger players like world number 91 Ng Tze Yong as well as Aidil Sholeh potentially given an opportunity to shine.

Similarly in the men's doubles, the world number 27 pairing of Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin Mohd Rumsani will be tested in their ability to shoulder the responsibility and manage the pressure at a high level tournament.

Malaysia is in Group D along with Japan, Canada and England and should finish in the top two to qualify for the quarter-finals.

Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia celebrates after winning his semi-finals match at the 2021 Sudirman Cup
Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia celebrates after winning his semi-finals match at the 2021 Sudirman Cup (Badmintonphoto | Courtesy of BWF)

The nation's Uber Cup squad is also one that features a lot of young talent. The void of a top-tier singles player is glaring but the team is packed with youngsters who are keen to make a mark, which includes world number 53 Kisona Selvadurai, who gained valuable court time against much higher ranked players in the Sudirman Cup.

Their doubles pair of Thinaah Muralitharan and Pearly Tan have been causing a stir against other much higher ranked pairings but this tournament will likely expose the weaknesses in the depth of the squad.

Malaysia's Uber Cup team are drawn into Group D along with China, hosts Denmark and Canada and will do well if they can finish in the top two of the group.

Can Thailand take it a step further?

Thailand's best chance of success in Denmark will likely come courtesy of the Uber Cup squad who finished runners-up in 2018.

They have a strong pool of women's singles players to choose from including 2013 world champion, Ratchanok Intanon, Pornpawee Chochuwong and Busanan Ongbamrungphan, who are very difficult to beat on their given day.

With the likes of their doubles pair, Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai, who are ranked within the top ten they would like nothing more than to deliver the title they missed out on at the last edition.

The Thai women are in Group B along with India - who are without PV Sindhu - Spain and Scotland.

Thailand's Thomas Cup prospects also look bright with men's singles players, Kantapon Wangcharoen and Kunlavut Vitidsarn, able to hold their own against some of the big names in the sport.

Up against Indonesia, Chinese Taipei and Algeria in Group A, it would take a few big upsets by the Thai men to clear the group-stage.

Be sure to follow all the action from the Thomas and Uber Cup finals with our live blog that starts on 9 October and follow the action live on Olympic.com.

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