Ratchanok squabbles as Yamaguchi gives Japan Uber Cup upper hand

Bangkok (AFP) –


Thai star Ratchanok Intanon blamed a loss of concentration after bickering with the umpire for her straight sets loss to Akane Yamaguchi, as Japan drew first blood in the Uber Cup final on Saturday.

Dark horses Thailand are making their first ever finals appearance in badminton's Uber Cup after stunning serial winners China in the semis.

But world number two Yamaguchi secured the first point of the final, beating a dogged Ratchanok 21-15, 21-19 with a mix of deft touches at the net and controlled power shots.

Ratchanok, ranked two places behind her and who is known to adoring Thais fans as "Nong May", battled back from the loss of the first set.

But with the score 3-2 in the second, she lost focus arguing with the umpire after he ruled that her appeal for a review of a line call was too late.

"She (Yamaguchi) concentrated more than me," she told reporters.

"I did not feel very good (after) I had a fight with umpire... because he did not believe me (over the review).

"I'm sad, I wanted to get the first point for my team."

Japan are hot favourites to take their first Uber Cup since the 1980s.

They eased by South Korea in their semi on Friday.

In addition to Yamaguchi, they have a team loaded with stars, including Nozomi Okuhara in the singles as well as two of the world's top four doubles pairings in Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota and Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi.

China, absent from the women's final for the first time ever after Thailand's thrilling 3-2 win in the semis, have a chance to redeem national pride in the Thomas Cup on Sunday when they play Japan.

But Japan are eyeing a clean sweep led by single's star Kento Momota who swatted away world number one Viktor Axelsen in their final four match up on Friday.