SUDIRMAN CUP 2015 QF – Japan weathers Danish storm

Japan suffered a huge scare, going the full distance in their Sudirman Cup quarter-final with Kento Momota winning the key point against Denmark, while Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie played a similar […]

Japan suffered a huge scare, going the full distance in their quarter-final with Kento Momota winning the key point against Denmark, while Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie played a similar role in his team’s win over Chinese Taipei.

By Tarek Hafi.  Photos: Yohan Nonotte for Badmintonphoto (live in Dongguan)

Denmark’s 2015 Sudirman Cup team was remarkable for its best assets being left first at home and then on the bench.  But while they were left with a young and mostly inexperienced team, they still pushed the Nippon team, missing the semi-final spot by a whisker.

Both of the Level 1 quarter-finals on Friday at the 2015 Sudirman Cup looked set to remove the suspense early.  In one, the underdog Chinese Taipei team had all three of their must-win matches loaded on the front of the tie.  In the other, Denmark had two of its must-win matches at the outset as well as they led off with mixed doubles, then men’s singles, against a Japanese team with some of the most formidable ladies on the planet waiting to clean up.

For Denmark, Mads Pieler Kolding came close to becoming a national hero, helping his nation earn two points from their encounter with Japan.  The super-tall twenty-seven year-old player was first engaged in the mixed category on Friday, joined by his younger partner Sara Thygesen (pictured) where they faced Kenta Kazuno and Akane Kurihara.  The duo fought a three-game battle to clinch the first point, showing their fearless strength from the start.

Right after, the young aces from each side, Viktor Axelsen and Kento Momota (pictured top), also showed their full potential in a tight contest, which eventually led to a win from Kento Momota, 21-15, 17-21, 21-9 in a hour of play.  The young Japanese player justified the confidence he showed before the start of the competition, when he proclaimed his team as a highly possible winner.

The men’s singles loss boded ill for the Danes as three top-ten entries from Japan loomed in the remaining matches.  Sure enough, Momota’s fellow 2012 World Junior Champion and guardian of Japan’s bright future, Nozomi Okuhara did exactly what she was expected to do and trounced Line Kjaersfeldt, displaying her fast and powerful game as she prevailed 21-12, 21-9.

Japan leading 2 points to 1, had probably in mind to easily grab a third point with Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa, ranked six in the world, facing a scratch men’s doubles pair.  However, they both were left completely stunned by Kim Astrup and Mads Pieler Kolding, paired for the first time due to Mads Conrad Petersen’s injury.  The Danes delivered a wonderful performance and dominated their opponents in straight games of 21-19 and 21-15.

A fifth and last match was required to deliver a winner but while world #1 Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi (pictured) faced a scratch pairing of Thygesen and singles specialist Line Kjaersfeldt, the two Danes didn’t panic.  Instead, the Europeans offered an honourable performance, pushing their skilful opponents to a rubber, until the Japanese ladies eventually got the edge, 19-21, 21-7, 21-19.

After an ultra-close win from Japan, they go on to face neighbours Korea for the first time since 1991, this time in a fight for a spot in the Sudirman Cup final.

End of the road for Chinese Taipei

Indonesia, in contrast, had a smoother gateway to the semis when they faced Chinese Taipei.  With the Southeast Asians’ overwhelming strength in women’s and mixed doubles, winning the first three matches was both crucial and feasible for Chinese Taipei even though they fielded only two of three possible top ten players.

First up, Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan proved once more they were a step higher above after they dominated world #4 Lee Sheng Mu and Tsai Chia Hsin in only twenty-eight minutes, 21-17, 21-18.  As expected, Chinese Taipei’s leading women’s single specialist Tai Tzu Ying (pictured) delivered the first point to her country after she left no chance to her Indonesia counterpart Bellaetrix Manuputty, winning 21-17, 21-17.

It was then the turn of Jonatan Christie (pictured bottom) to put on a show.  The 17-year-old, who carries the burden of being Indonesia’s men’s singles future and was recently called Taufik Hidayat’s heir, battled hard and produced a brilliant 9-point run in the third game to force world #24 Hsu Jen Hao to give in after more than a hour of play.

Next on court, Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari (pictured), the clear favourites against Hsieh Pei Chen and Wu Ti Jung, did not disappoint, and gave their opponents a tough 21-14, 21-9 lesson.  That officially ended Chinese Taipei’s run in this Sudirman Cup, and gave Indonesia a warm spot in the semis of the prestigious world event.  But the task will now be much harder as they are now set to meet China, on their home soil.

Pecking order completed

In the Level 3 play-off, Australia came out winner after trailing two to nothing against Austria.  Losing their singles, the Aussies were able to count on their doubles to give the encounter a whole new perspective and eventually sort things out positively for Leanne Choo and her team-mates.  In the fourth level play-off matches, Israel couldn’t get a similar happy ending after they were defeated by Iceland 3 to 1, having only Israel’s captain Misha Zilberman, who managed to get the sole point over Kari Gunnarsson.

The last tie in Level 2 was played on Friday night and Hong Kong bounced back from a loss in men’s doubles to take it 3-1 as former world #9 Poon Lok Yan / Tse Ying Suet saved two match points against current world #9 Eefje Muskens / Selena Piek of the Netherlands before winning in three.

Final standings (Levels 2 to 4)

13.   Hong Kong 24.   Austria
14.   Netherlands 25.   Turkey
15.   France 26.   Switzerland
16.   Singapore 27.   South Africa
17.   Spain 28.   Italy
18.   USA 29.   Philippines
19.   Canada 30.   Sri Lanka
20.   Brazil 31.   Iceland
21.   Vietnam 32.   Nigeria
22.   Czech Republic 33.   Kazakhstan
23.   Australia 34.   Seychelles

Click here for complete Friday results

About Tarek Hafi