India qualified for Thomas Cup finals on Saturday when they beat Japan 3-2 in their third-place play off of the Asian Zone qualifiers in Nakhonratchasima, Thailand.
India got off to a flying start after Chetan Anand — who had been rested for the previous two matches against Vietnam and Korea — outclassed Sasaki Sho 21-16, 23-21.
In doubles, Thomas Sanave and Rupesh Kumar saw off Hashimoto Hirokatsu and Hirata NoriyasuNational 21-19, 18-21, 21-15. In the second singles match, Arvind Bhat fell to Yamada Kazushi 15-21, 21-14, 21-7. Speaking to HT, Bhat cited an ankle sprain picked up during the second game as the reason for his defeat. "It happened because of a sudden, sharp movement that slowed me down," he said. "But I still managed to pull off the second game. I will fly to Bangalore on Monday and get it checked."
In doubles, V. Diju and Akshay Dewalkar went down fighting to Kazuno Kenta and Hayakawa Kenichi 21-17,16-21,19-21. The scoreline stood at 2-2 till Anup Sridhar rounded off proceedings for India by beating Sato Shoji 21-7, 19-21, 24-22.
“It was the toughest match I had in this tournament so far,” said Sridhar. National coach Pullela Gopichand was satisfied with the win. “ I thought we could take all the singles matches. But Bhat's injury made that impossible,” he said. “Now that we've qualified, our focus will be to do well in the main event.”
India last made it to the main draw in 1988, 2000 and 2006. Meanwhile, the women's team lost 0-3 to Indonesia in the semis of the Uber Cup qualifiers.