Thomas Cup

Thomas Cup

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.

The final phase of the tournament involves twelve teams competing at venues within the host nation. The final phase of the tournament is also often known as the Thomas & Uber Cup, because it is played concurrently with the women's championships, the Uber Cup (organized since 1956-1957), as a joint extravaganza held at the same general time and same venue beginning in 1984. However, this unification will exist for final time in the 2008 tournament, as the BWF has already announced that each championship will be held separately again beginning in 2010. [cite web|url= |title=Badminton: BWF spice things up |accessdate=2006-12-23]

Of the twenty-five Thomas Cup tournaments held since 1948-1949, only three nations have won the title. Indonesia is the most successful team, having won the tournament thirteen times. The current cup holder, China, which did not begin to compete until the 1981-1982 series, follows Indonesia with seven titles, while Malaysia has won five titles. Thomas Cup and, to a lesser extent, Uber Cup are probably the world's "biggest" regularly held badminton events in terms of player and fan interest, trumping 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.

The 2008 Thomas Cup was contested in Jakarta, Indonesia.


First Thomas Cup

The Thomas Cup competition was the idea of Sir George Alan Thomas, a highly successful English badminton player of the early 1900's, 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. [cite web|url= |title=The Thomas Cup |accessdate=2007-04-13] cite web|url= |title=Mengenal Sejarah Piala Thomas |accessdate=2007-04-13 id icon]

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 [cite web|url= |title=Thomas -/Uber Cup history |accessdate=2007-04-13] .

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 player on each side faced "both" of the top two players on the opposite side, accounting for four matches. A fifth singles match took place between the third ranked singles players on each team. Finally, two doubles pairings on each side played "both" of the doubles pairings on 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 ever seen any of the players on the other side play before). 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 [cite web|url= |title=THOMAS CUP - FIRST CONTEST |accessdate=2007-04-13] .


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. [cite book|last=Davis |first=Pat |title=Guinness Book of Badminton |publisher=Guinness World Records Limited |year=1983 |month=October |isbn=978-0851122717 |pages=120 – 122]

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. [cite book|last=Davis |first=Pat |title=Guinness Book of Badminton |publisher=Guinness World Records Limited |year=1983 |month=October |isbn=978-0851122717 |pages=122 – 124]

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. [cite book|last=Davis |first=Pat |title=Guinness Book of Badminton |publisher=Guinness World Records Limited |year=1983 |month=October |isbn=978-0851122717 |pages=119, 124 – 128]

In 1982, however, China burst on to 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 only once, by Malaysia in 1992.

Revised format

In the early 1980's 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.


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:

1990 onwards

uccessful national teams

Only three nations, Malaysia (formerly Malaya), Indonesia, and China have ever held the Thomas Cup. Curiously each of them 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 has played in the decisive final tie on seventeen occasions. Since the Thomas Cup format was overhauled in 1984, it has never failed to place among the top four teams.

China has captured the Cup on seven occasions including the last three in 2004, 2006 and 2008. It has contested the final tie nine times and, like Indonesia, has never failed to place among the top four teams. Malaysia has won five times, the last being in 1992. It has played in the final tie on thirteen occasions. Since the format change in 1984 it has reached the "final four" nine of thirteen times.

Despite its small population, Denmark has traditionally been Europe's strongest power in men's badminton and the strongest badminton nation "not" to have captured the Thomas Cup. The only European nation to have played in the final tie, it has finished second eight times spanning from the first competition in 1949 to 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. Thailand, with a king who promoted the sport, produced outstanding players at the time of its run to the final in 1961, and for some years after that, but has since descended to a lower rung on the international ladder.

Among all the other contending nations, South Korea has the best record. Rising to prominence in the 1980's, and especially strong in doubles, it had reached the "final four" six times before finally reaching the "final two" in 2008 to become the runner-up. Japan produced highly competitive teams in the late 1960's and the 1970's as its women were winning Uber Cup championships. Both its men and its women have fallen back since. India nearly reached the final twice in the 1950's. 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 usually 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 1960's to the mid 1980's, has yet to advance to the semifinal round of Thomas Cup's final phase.

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

:* = "host":# = "including Malaya"

Team appearances

As of the 2008 championship twenty-one 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-five 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, nine Asian nations have qualified to play in play at the final venue. Six European nations have done so. The USA and Canada 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.

Below is the list of teams that have appeared in the final stage of Thomas Cup as of the 2008 tournament.;25 times

;22 times

;14 times

;13 times
*bd|South Korea

;11 times

;10 times

;9 times

;8 times
*bd|United States

;7 times

;5 times
*bd|New Zealand

;4 times

;2 times
*bd|Hong Kong
*bd|South Africa

;1 time

References and footnotes

External links

* [ BWF: Thomas Cup]

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