Girish Mahajan (Editor)

Thomas Cup

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Sport  Badminton
Countries  BWF member nations
Most titles  Indonesia (13 titles)
Number of teams  16
No. of teams  16
Most recent champion(s)  Denmark (1st title)
Official website  Thomas Cup
Date founded  1949
Thomas Cup httpsuploadwikimediaorgwikipediaen333201

Founder  Sir George Thomas, 7th Baronet
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The Thomas Cup, sometimes called the World Men's Team Championships, is an international badminton competition among teams representing member nations of the Badminton World Federation (BWF), the sport's global governing body. The championships have been conducted every two years since the 1982 tournament, amended from being conducted every three years since the first tournament held in 1948–1949.

Contents

The final phase of the tournament involves twelve teams competing at venues within a host nation and is played concurrently with the final phase of the world women's team championships, the Uber Cup (first held in 1956–1957). Since 1984 the two competitions have been held jointly at the various stages of play.

Of the twenty-eight Thomas Cup tournaments held since 1948–1949, only five nations have won the title. Indonesia is the most successful team, having won the tournament thirteen times. China, which did not begin to compete until the 1982 series, follows Indonesia with nine titles, while Malaysia has won five titles. Japan and Denmark both have one. Thomas Cup and, to a lesser extent, Uber Cup are possibly the world's "biggest" and most prestigious regularly held badminton events in terms of player and fan interest. For many they trump major tournaments for individual competitors such as the venerable All-England Championships, the BWF World Championships, and even the badminton competitions at the Olympic Games.

Japan became the fourth nation to win the Thomas Cup after beating Malaysia 3–2 in the 2014 final. Traditionally, the Thomas Cup had always been won by Asian countries until Denmark became the fifth nation and the first European nation in history to win the Thomas Cup after beating Indonesia 3–2 in the 2016 final.

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First Thomas Cup

The Thomas Cup competition was the idea of Sir George Alan Thomas, a highly successful English badminton player of the early 1900s, who was inspired by tennis's Davis Cup, and football's (soccer's) World Cup first held in 1930. His idea was well received at the general meeting of the International Badminton Federation (now Badminton World Federation) in 1939.

In the same year, Sir George presented the Thomas Cup, officially known as The International Badminton Championship Challenge Cup, produced by Atkin Bros of London at a cost of US$40,000. The Cup stands 28 inches high and 16 inches across at its widest, and consists of three parts: a plinth (pedestal), a bowl, and a lid with player figure.

The first tournament was originally planned for 1941–1942 (badminton seasons in the northern hemisphere traditionally ran from the autumn of one calendar year to the spring of the next), but was delayed when World War II exploded across the continents. Sir George's dream was finally realized in 1948–1949 when ten national teams participated in the first Thomas Cup competition. Three qualifying zones were established: Pan America, Europe, and the Pacific; though Malaya (now Malaysia) was the only Pacific zone participant. In a format that would last until 1984, all ties (matches between nations) would consist of nine individual matches; the victorious nation needing to win at least five of these contests. The top two singles players for each side faced both of the top two players for the opposite side, accounting for four matches. A fifth singles match took place between the third ranked singles players for each team. Finally, two doubles pairings for each side played both of the doubles pairings for the opposite side, accounting for four more matches. Each tie was normally contested over two days, four matches on the first day and five on the next.The United States and Denmark won their respective zone qualifications and thus joined Malaya for the inter-zone ties.

The inter-zone ties were held in the United Kingdom. As the tournament used a knockout (single elimination) system, rather than a round-robin system, one country, Denmark, was given a bye in the first round. Malaya defeated the USA 6–3 in a highly competitive match played in Glasgow, Scotland (curiously, none of the players on either side had previously seen any of the players on the other side play). Of note, this tie marked the first of only three ever matches between the USA's Dave Freeman and Malaya's Wong Peng Soon the two greatest singles players of the early post-war period. In the final round held in Preston, England, Malaya beat Denmark 8–1 and became the first nation to win a Thomas Cup.

Development

During the next several Thomas Cup competitions the number of participating nations grew and a fourth qualifying zone was added. The former Pacific zone was converted into Asian and Australasian zones for the 1954–1955 tournament. Beginning with the second tournament in 1951–1952, zone winners contested to determine a challenger for the reigning champion nation. Until 1964 the Cup-holding nation always hosted these inter-zone ties but was exempt from them, and from the earlier intra-zone matches, needing only to defend its title, at home, in a single, conclusive challenge round tie.

With veterans such as Wong Peng Soon. Ooi Teik Hock, and Ong Poh Lim leading the way Malaya comfortably retained the Cup in Singapore against the USA (7–2) in 1952 and Denmark (8–1) in 1955. Malaya's reign, however, was ended in 1958 (3 matches to 6) by upstart Indonesia led by Ferry Sonneville and Tan Joe Hok. Indonesia successfully defended its title in 1961 against a young team from Thailand which had surprised Denmark in the inter-zone final.

Amid some complaints of home court advantage (and "home climate" advantage as far as the Europeans were concerned), a rules change effective in 1964 prevented the reigning champion nation from defending the Cup at home twice in succession. The challenge round played in Tokyo, Japan that year was nonetheless controversial because the Danish challengers were barracked and severely harassed during play by young Indonesian fans. A narrow 5–4 Indonesian victory was upheld by the IBF (BWF) over Danish protest. When the challenge round returned to Jakarta in 1967 a resurgent Malaysia led Indonesia 4–3 (despite the spectacular debut of Indonesia's young Rudy Hartono) when crowd interference during the eighth match prompted tournament referee Herbert Scheele to halt play. When Indonesia rejected an IBF (BWF) decision to resume the contest in New Zealand, Malaysia was awarded the outstanding matches (6–3) and with them the Thomas Cup.

After 1967 the IBF (BWF) further reduced the advantages accorded to the defending champion by eliminating the old challenge round system. Instead, the Cup defender would receive a bye only to an inter-zone semifinal berth and then have to earn its way into the decisive final match. This change, however, proved to be little obstacle for a rampant Indonesia. With a cadre of talented players including Hartono and doubles wizards such as Tjun Tjun and Christian Hadinata, Indonesia dominated Thomas Cup competition throughout the seventies. Its successful effort to regain the cup in 1969–1970 was a struggle, but in the competitions ending in 1973, 1976, and 1979 Indonesia swept its ties by winning a remarkable 51 of 54 individual matches.

In 1982, however, China burst onto the scene as a new member of the IBF (BWF). Having long before developed players as good as, or better than, any in the world (especially in singles), China defeated Indonesia in a classic 5–4 final in London. Thus began an era continuing to the present which has seen either China or Indonesia capture or retain the Cup. The pattern has been broken three times, by Malaysia in 1992, Japan in 2014 and Denmark in 2016.

Revised format

In the early 1980s the IBF (BWF) revamped the formats of both Thomas Cup and the women's world team championship, the Uber Cup. Starting in 1984 they were held concurrently, every two years not three, with equivalent phases of the two competitions held at the same venues and times. Ties at all stages of the Thomas Cup were trimmed from nine matches to five, played in one day not two. Lineups continued to consist of three singles players and two doubles teams, but each now played a single match against the opposing team's counterpart.

Qualification

The old knockout (single elimination) zone qualification system in which each tie was played at a separate venue and time was eliminated. Instead, common qualifying venues brought many teams together to contend in group round-robin ties followed by playoffs between group leaders. As few as one or as many as three teams from a given venue (depending on the previously assessed strength of its field) would qualify for the final phase of the competition which until 2004 was limited to eight teams. The number of qualifying venues prior to 2004 varied between two and four and their sites basically reflected the long existent loci of badminton strength in the Far East and (to a lesser extent) in Europe (see chart below).

The European qualifying venue usually hosted the greatest number of teams and to streamline play and create more competitive ties, a two tiered system was eventually instituted there. Weaker badminton nations played-off in groups for the right to contest with the stronger national teams. To have an easier road to the inter-zone competition, strong Asian teams sometimes competed outside of their "natural" qualification venue. Rising power South Korea, for example, won qualifications held in North America in 1986 and in 1988.

Below shows the qualification slots in tournament history:

Final tournament

From 1984 through 2002 the final phase of Thomas Cup competition brought eight competing teams together. These included the defending champion nation and the host nation exempt from earlier qualification ties. The format of this final phase largely mirrored that of the qualifying venues. The eight teams were divided into pools or groups of four. Round-robin play within each group determined first and second place group finishers who then advanced to the semifinals. Each semifinal tie pitted the top finisher in one group against the second-place finisher in the other, with the winners proceeding to the championship match. A playoff for third place between losing semifinalists was instituted in 1984 but was dropped in 1990.

In 2004 The BWF increased the number of Thomas Cup qualifying venues to five, one for each of five regional confederations (Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and Pan America) that it had established. It also increased the number of teams qualifying for the final phase of competition to twelve. While all confederations were guaranteed to send at least one qualifier to the final phase, strong regions such as Asia might send several (see chart above). At the finals the twelve qualifying teams were divided into four groups of three teams with round-robin play within each group. Round-robin winners were then placed in separate quarter-final berths of a knockout (single elimination) tournament to await opponents determined by matches between the second-place finisher of one group and the third-place finisher of another. The draw was played out and the winner of this tournament within a tournament became the Thomas Cup champion.

From 2014, 16 teams were presented in the tournament. Teams no longer qualifying via the continental championships, instead teams will be invited based from their World Ranking position. The new structure also ensured a minimum of one team from each continent and three teams from Asia and Europe will qualify. However, BWF revert to old qualifying system in 2016 tournament.

Successful national teams

Only five nations, Malaysia (formerly Malaya), Indonesia, China, Japan, and Denmark have ever won the Thomas Cup. Curiously, the first three each won the first Thomas Cup competition that it entered: Malaya, the initial contest in 1949; Indonesia, the 1958 contest against Malaya; and China, the 1982 contest over Indonesia.

Indonesia leads in total titles with thirteen. It won four consecutive titles from 1970 through 1979 and five consecutive titles from 1994 through 2002. Indonesia's ten-year reign as champions was ended by the resurgence of China in 2004 when the Chinese won the title in Jakarta. Indonesia has played in the decisive final tie (team match) on eighteen occasions. For the first time since their first entrance in 1958, Indonesia failed to reach the top four in 2012.

China has captured the Cup on nine occasions, including five consecutive times in 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012. Since 1982 when it first entered the competition China has won the most titles and has always placed among the top four teams, except in 2016 when they lost in quarter final.

Malaysia has won five times, the last being in 1992. It has played in the final tie on fourteen occasions. Since the format change in 1984 it has reached the "final four" eleven of sixteen times.

In 2014 Japan became the fourth nation to have captured the Cup, doing so in its first appearance in the championship round. Japan had finished among the "final four" on four previous occasions: 1967, 1979, 2010, and 2012; and in 1970 it had given the eventual champion Indonesia its toughest battle, going down 4–5 in the final of the Asian qualifier.

Despite its small population, Denmark has traditionally been Europe's strongest power in men's badminton and the only non-Asian team to have won the Thomas Cup. Being the only European nation to have played in the final tie, it had previously finished second eight times spanning from the first competition in 1949 through the 2006 tournament. The USA, a power in the early days of international badminton (especially in women's competition), finished second to Malaya in 1952 but thereafter steadily fell behind the leading badminton nations.

Among all the other contending nations, South Korea has the best record. Rising to prominence in the 1980s, and especially strong in doubles, it had reached the "final four" seven times before finishing second in 2008 and 2012. India nearly reached the final twice in the 1950s. Despite some fine individual players it has lacked the depth, particularly in doubles, to seriously contend for the Cup. In Europe, England and Sweden have often joined Denmark in advancing to the final phase of Thomas Cup competition since 1984. England, traditionally more successful in women's play than in men's, had its best showing in 1984 with a third-place finish. Sweden, whose greatest badminton success spanned from the late 1960s to the mid-1980s, has yet to advance to the semifinal round of Thomas Cup's final phase.

Below is the list of eight nations that have finished in the top two in Thomas Cup.

* = host ** = including Malaya

Team appearances at the final stages

As of the 2016 championship twenty-seven teams have advanced to the final venue over the history of the Thomas Cup competition. Among them Denmark has reached this final stage in all twenty-nine competitions (and without ever receiving a bye to it). Indonesia and China have also advanced to the final stage in each competition that they have entered. Geographically, ten Asian nations have qualified to play at the final venue. Nine European nations have done so. The United States, Canada, Peru and Mexico are the only Pan American teams to have reached this stage, and New Zealand and Australia, as one might expect, have been the only teams to represent Oceania. South Africa and Nigeria have qualified from the African zone.

2016 saw Mexico debuted in the championship.

Below is the list of teams that have appeared in the final stage of Thomas Cup as of the 2016 tournament.

* = host

References

Thomas Cup Wikipedia