Thank the heavens!

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KUCHING: Australia were unable to capitalise on the long break from the final that was halted by rain on Saturday afternoon and lost the remaining set to Japan in the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceania Regional Qualifying here yesterday.

Rain brings luck to Japan as they see off Australia 2-1 in final

A SURPRISE IN KUCHING: Iwamoto (left) and his players celebrate their victory with Liew (third right) and (from right) Gupta, tournament official Bernard Chin and Pathak. Japan beat Australia 2-1 in the final of the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceania Regional Qualifying.

A SURPRISE IN KUCHING: Iwamoto (left) and his players celebrate their victory with Liew (third right) and (from right) Gupta, tournament official Bernard Chin and Pathak. Japan beat Australia 2-1 in the final of the Junior Davis Cup by BNP Paribas Asia/Oceania Regional Qualifying.

Played on the main court of the Sarawak Lawn Tennis Association (SLTA) centre on a fine sunny morning, top seeds Japan made short work of the Australians to complete the set with a 6-2 win.

Kazuma Kawachi and Soichiro Moritani were leading 3-1 in the doubles of the final match on Saturday when heavy rain stopped play at 5.40pm.

Jordan Thompson had earlier secured a point for the defending champions in the singles by beating Kawachi 6-2, 6-2 in the first singles while Kaichi Uchida outplayed Jay Andrijic 6-4, 6-1 to level the score at 1-1.

“We did not expect to beat the Australians and I am very happy for Japan and the boys. Our target was to reach the last four and becoming champions is a big bonus to us,” said Japan coach Ko Iwamoto after the final.

According to him, they were a bit lucky to win because they might have lost in the final if they had not won the doubles match.

“We were down 3-6 in the first set and the boys were depressed but luckily it rained in the second set and with an hour’s break, they felt refreshed and came back strongly with a 6-2 win to force the game into a decider,” he said.

Iwamoto felt that two other factors for their victory could be that the Australian team were playing without their top player and that the standard of Japan’s three players were almost on the same level.

“This is good for team competition because they can be easily rotated in between the first, second singles and the doubles,” he pointed out.

Japan were fifth at last year’s qualifying event in Australia and by finishing as the champions will put them in good stead for the main draw of the world finals in Mexico in August as they go into the competition with better seedings.

But the title cost them more than RM5,000 as they had to cancel their flights on Saturday and buy new tickets for their flight home to Japan later yesterday.

Australia coach Mark Woodforde took the defeat in good sportsmanship, saying that the Japanese deserved to win as they had played better.

“I am not disappointed with the loss at all. My boys had a long hard week and they had played some very tough matches.

“I think the Japanese played a better doubles match,” he said.

Woodforde went on to say that his boys were in the “cut-throat” situation in the final set of the doubles after they trailed the Japanese 1-3 and could not afford to make any more mistakes.

“It’s exciting to be in the final as we have met our target of finishing among the top four teams. To me, it has been a very good result and we have been playing against very good teams in this tournament,” he added.

Australia, the defending world champions, were fourth in the Asia Oceania qualifying last year.

“The result has nothing to do with us not having our top player Luke Saville who was stranded in London due to cancellation of flights resulting from a volcanic ash fallout from an Icelandic volcano.

“Luke was also not in our team in last year’s event as he was injured. However his presence will certainly strengthen the team in the finals in Mexico,” said Woodforde.

The retired doubles legend was also pleased to see that the standard of the Asians in the tournament has improved greatly, saying that many of the teams were playing “tremendous” tennis.

“I am not surprised that countries like Japan, China, India and South Korea have finished among the top teams and I do believe that in two or three years’ time, even Malaysia would be a very strong team,” said Woodforde.

All the top four teams – Japan, Australia, China and India – received certificates of participation from organising chairman Patrick Liew, who is also SLTA president.

Also present were International Tennis Federation representative Ajay Pathak and tournament referee Puneet Gupta.

In the other unfinished match between Uzbekistan and South Korea to decide fifth and sixth, the Koreans eventually triumphed 2-1 when they won the third set of the doubles match 9-7.

Both teams had won a point each and were playing the doubles match on Saturday when the match was called off.

At the time, the South Koreans were already leading in the rubber and heading for victory.