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Japan closes in on medals at Thomas Cup, Uber Cup

Kyodo

Japan secured at least third place at the Thomas Cup when the men’s team beat France 3-1 on Thursday in the quarterfinals.

Kento Momota helped Japan take an early lead by defeating Brice Leverdez 21-13, 21-11 in the first men’s singles match at Siri Fort Sports Complex, the former world No. 2 needing just 33 minutes to close out the game.

In doubles, Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda gave Japan a two-match lead which Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe capitalized on in the final doubles rubber.

Kazumasa Sakai was the only Japanese loser on the day, going down in straight games to Lucas Corvee (21-17, 21-19).

Momota won all five of his matches at the 2014 championship as a member of the gold-winning team, but the 23-year-old missed the previous event in 2016 after he received a ban from the Nippon Badminton Association for gambling at illegal casinos.

Two years ago, Japan was eliminated in the quarterfinals.

The men’s team will face Denmark in Friday’s semifinals, where Momota is set for a singles clash against world champion Viktor Axelsen.

“I look forward to seeing how well I can do against him,” Momota said.

In the Uber Cup, the top-seeded Japan women also reached the semifinals, booking a place in the last four with defending champions China as well as South Korea and Thailand.

The women’s team topped Taiwan 3-1 in their Uber Cup quarterfinal.

After Akane Yamaguchi put Japan on the back foot with a two-game loss in the tie’s opener, doubles players Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota drew Japan even before star singles player Nozomi Okuhara won her rubber easily and handed over to Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi to close it out.