JAPAN OPEN 2013 R32 – China’s almost out of men’s singles

Badminton superpower China was taken aback by very shocking defeats in the 1st round, that of last week’s China Masters champion Wang Zhengming, who bowed out to Nguyen Tien Minh […]

Badminton superpower China was taken aback by very shocking defeats in the 1st round, that of last week’s China Masters champion Wang Zhengming, who bowed out to Nguyen Tien Minh (Vietnam) 14-21 11-21 14-21 and then followed by a more shocking defeat, that of world#2 Chen Long to a Japanese qualifier Kazuteru Kozai 22-24 21-16.  With Du Pengyu’s last minute withdrawal, China finds itself in unfamiliar ground – it leaves China with one last medal prospect in one of its strongest discipline – the men’s singles, with Gao Huan.

By Emzi Regala and Miyuki Komiya, live from Tokyo. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Chen Long (photo) could not have anticipated “the” problem standing over at the opponent’s court, after all he was facing a player who has not been in the Japan national team for the past 4-5 years, has a year ago retired from Tonami Badminton Club and is now fully concentrating on coaching Ryukoku University’s badminton club.  But to Chen’s surprise, he found himself at the losing end of a tightly contested match. He could not find a solution to break the momentum that Kozai built finally succumbing to a 48-minute battle on-court, and not progressing beyond the 1st round.

My smashes just kept coming back. I could not break his defense so I changed tactics.  I utilized the drift to my advantage while patiently waiting for my chance to kill the rally.  I think I did well on the net too.  Chinese players are good at cross-court smashes from the back of the court, so I had to be mindful and watch out for that.  My feet moved well today so I was also able to reach the shuttle in time.  Also, Chen Long is among the world’s top ranked players, I think there was more pressure for him to win.  I am not a competitive player anymore, and I have parted ways with that kind of pressure and so I am more relaxed, and thus was able to play my style,” says the elated Kozai (photo), who was very happy that he accomplished this big victory in front of his family who are watching with the crowd.

Wang Zhengming’s cloud 9 lasted for only 3 days as the recently crowned China Master’s champion could not sustain his energy against his Vietnamese opposition, 5th seed Nguyen Tien Minh.

The China Master’s championship took a lot out of me, physically speaking.  I ran out of steam,” explains Wang (photo)  of his loss.

He’s powerful so I was thinking of immediately following up quick net shots after every smash, but unfortunately it did not work well in the 1st set.  In the 2nd set, he suddenly got tired and lost speed.  That gave me the necessary break.  I won over him this time, but if we play again next time, I probably will lose.  He’s so much younger compared to me,” explains the ever animated Nguyen Tien Minh of his win.

Amongst the other surprises of the day, Tommy Sigiarto was sent packing by Thailand’s Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk, while Sho Sasaki couldn’t live up to the local expectations against India’s giant killer Srikanth. Gao huang is the last Chinese men standing as he takes on Nguyen Tien Minh on Thursday.

Ratchanok vs Li Rematch– Not This Time

Anticipation was in the air for a possible re-match of the 2013 World Championship match between the reigning World Champion, 18-year old Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand, photo) and the reigning Olympic Champion 22-year old Li Xuerui (China). But it was not meant to be, at least not this time as the top 2 seeds conceded walkovers to their respective opponents.  Ratchanok was complaining about her back injury, while Li who had given notice to the organizers until her name was called on court, was said to suffer from a knee injury.

Farewell SueMae

The Japanese crowd witnessed the last international match of their pair Maeda/Suetsuna, also fondly called “SueMae” by their local fans. Suetsuna has previously announced that the would be her retirement tournament from the international circuit.  Against Indonesians Maheswari/Polii, SueMae could not hold it for one day longer as the Indonesian pair proved to be tougher physically and mentally to outlast the Japanese in a match that lasted for almost 2 hours 19-21 21-12 21-14.

I was expecting a long match but not this long.  We didn’t think that they could exceed our stamina.  All in all, I was happy because I think this is a good memory for my last match.  I will only be retiring from international competition but I will still play at the Japan league for team tournaments. I don’t think I can do individual tournaments because I don’t have a partner and it is hard to find a new partner at this stage, so I will just focus on helping my team win at the Japan league,” says Suetsuna (photo) during the press conference.

It was a very tough but good match against the Indonesians but I didn’t expect that they will use our strategy to play long rallies against us.  Moving forward, I will now be partnering with Kakiiwa for future tournaments,” added the emotional Maeda.

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Miyuki Komiya

About Miyuki Komiya

Miyuki Komiya is Badzine's correspondent in Japan. She joined the Badzine team in 2008 to provide coverage of the Japanese badminton scene. She has played badminton for more than 30 years and has been a witness to the modern history of Japanese badminton, both watching players become stronger on court and hearing the players comment on their increasing success over the years. Contact her at: miyuki @ badzine.net