JAPAN OPEN 2013 SF – Chinese men look for a doubles sweep

As China’s men’s doubles pair shuffling continues, new national team player Kang Jun’s luck finally ran out in the semi-final while Chai/Hong are in their first Superseries final right before […]

As China’s men’s doubles pair shuffling continues, new national team player Kang Jun’s luck finally ran out in the semi-final while Chai/Hong are in their first final right before yet another partner swap.

By Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondent live in Tokyo.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

A week after another classic all-but-men’s doubles title harvest at home, the mighty Chinese team have seen a rare shutout from the singles finals but are keen on taking all three doubles titles.  With an all-Chinese mixed final and the top seeds in action in women’s, much hinges now on whether Chai Biao / Hong Wei (pictured) can deliver an upset.

In fact, in the absence of the Korean and Malaysian aces, China was not far off making it an all-Chinese final in the men’s game as well.  Indonesia’s World Champions Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan played what should have been an easy contest against China’s newest pairing of Kang Jun and Liu Cheng.

The virtually unknown Kang Jun joined Chinese national team this month and paired with former World Junior Champion Liu Cheng (pictured), starting with last week’s China Masters.  They reached semi-final only second tournament.

The Indonesians were not under pressure at the outset and responded well against the Chinese attack.  Setiawan managed the game with strong shots and controlled shuttles, as the World Champions took the first game easily 21-12.  The Chinese changed their tactics in the second game, however, racing to the net and killing the shuttle successfully and they took that one 21-18.

In the final game, Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (pictured below) had a good start and got to the mid-game interval easily with 6-point advantage as the game seemed to be at the Indonesians’ pace.  But the Chinese became more aggressive and got 5 consecutive points.  The underdogs tried to catch the Indonesians, but Ahsan and Setiawan kept control of the shuttle and stayed calm until the end, taking the final game 21-18.

“We haven’t played with them before but we didn’t have pressure because we always prepare well for our matches,” Setiawan said after the match.

“Setiawan is like a good brother,” Ahsan added.  “He always gives me a lot of great advice and talks about his experiences in the match so I can always relax and play.”

“We were under pressure because it was our first semi-final,” said Liu.  “We tried our tactics, but it was difficult to manage the match.”

After the near miss by their compatriots, Chai Biao and Hong Wei succeeded in perpetrating an upset over the even most established veteran pair, Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (pictured below) of Denmark.

Despite their brief reunions with former partners Zhang Nan and Shen Ye for the World Championships, Chai and Hong seemed to be here to stay when it was announced last week that they would again be switching partners for the Denmark Open next month.  Like Ko and Lee last weekend, the two lanky Chinese aces have a chance to go out with a bang.

The Chinese had a good start with strong attack and kept the advantage to snatch the first game.  The second game started the same way, with China staying on the attack and building up an 11-6 lead.  After the break, Boe and Mogensen changed gears.  They got to the net faster and killed more shuttles successfully.  A 6-point run for the Danes finally put them in front and they continued to play calmly and got the second game 21-15.

The final game was very close from beginning to end.  Both pairs maintained their concentration and played aggressively but it was the Chinese who surged ahead with 2 consecutive points from the 19-all draw and the Danes were unable to reach a second Superseries final on the year.

“The key to this match was our attitude,” Chai Biao said afterward.  “We were able to hit aggressively even when the score was close.”

“About the tomorrow’s match, we know the Indonesian pair have had great results these days but we also have a chance to win.  We are confident that we can win,” added Hong Wei.

Home favourites come up short

The opening match of the day was a women’s doubles contest between Japan’s Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (pictured left) and Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (pictured below) of Denmark.  The two pairs’ world rankings differ little, as the stand #3 and #4 respectively, but the Japanese were struggling to put a home pair in the women’s doubles final for only the third time in the Superseries era.

The Danes played aggressively from the start.  Their smashes were very strong and the angles were different from most Asian pairs’ so the Japanese had difficulty controlling the shuttle on defense.  Pedersen and Rytter Juhl soon emerged on top of a 21-16, 21-14 victory.

“We lost to the Japanese pair in the Sudirman Cup, so we are very happy with today’s win,” said Rytter Juhl after the match.  “Our coach’s advice during the interval was right on.

“We were able to move fast.  The Japanese pair is ranked higher than us, but we believed we could win.  Ayaka’s smash was faster and stronger than our defense.  But we were still able to defend well.”

World #2 Ma Jin / Tang Jinhua (pictured below) played against Indonesia’s new stars in the discipline, world #7 Pia Zebadiah Bernadeth / Rizki Amelia Pradipta.  The Indonesians got the first game successfully with their patient play in the long rallies.

“We were prepared for this match, including a strategy in case we lost the first game so we were not under pressure when we lost the opener,” Tang Jinhua said.

The Chinese continued to play calmly while the Indonesians couldn’t keep their patience in the long rallies.  Ma and Tang kept this up and got the second and final games easily, winning 17-21, 21-14, 21-12.

Xu/Ma book all-Chinese mixed final

The last match was in mixed doubles between Xu Chen (pictured below) and Ma Jin and Fischer Nielsen Joachim / Pedersen Christinna.

Fischer Nielsen and Pedersen directed their attacks at Ma Jin many times, but Ma kept her concentration and defended patiently.  She also waited for her chances to push the shuttle from the net and kill it as China got the first game, playing at their pace.

In the second game, the Chinese also had a good start and kept the lead.  Dane caught China at 18-all and earned match point at 20-19 but Xu and Ma kept playing aggressively until the end and won in straight games of 21-17, 23-21.

“It was a close match but we returned well and we were patient,” Xu said after the match.  “We have played them many times, so each of us know the other’s tactics.  We were able to play our best this time.”

“We started to get strong in the middle of the second game,” Pedersen said, “but the little details mattered.  We made a few mistakes and some bad shot choices.  You cannot afford that against very tough opponents such as this Chinese pair.”

In the other mixed doubles match, Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei beat Liu Cheng / Bao Yixin easily in straight games.

Finals line-up
XD: Xu Chen / Ma Jin (CHN) [1] vs. Zhang Nan / Zhao Yunlei (CHN) [2]
MS: Lee Chong Wei (MAS) [1] vs. Kenichi Tago (JPN) [7]
WS: Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) vs. Shizuka Uchida (JPN)
WD: Ma Jin / Tang Jinhua [1] vs. Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (DEN) [3]
MD: Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (INA) [1] vs. Chai Biao / Hong Wei (CHN)

Click here for complete semi-final results

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