AUSTRALIAN OPEN 2017 SF – Plain Janes dress down Chinese

Sydney is set for a Rio Olympic women’s doubles gold medal rematch but it was touch and go in the semi-finals whether either pair would get there. By Aaron Wong, […]

Sydney is set for a Rio Olympic women’s doubles gold medal rematch but it was touch and go in the semi-finals whether either pair would get there.

By Aaron Wong, Badzine Correspondent live in Sydney. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

In women’s doubles, the world #1 Japanese subduing of Chinese world #4 was suggested neither by their best scoreline to date against these opponents nor by the three consecutive defeats they had to turn around.  Rather, the  21-17, 21-11 result for Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (pictured above) was more relief than supremacy. Under balanced court conditions, unlike during their Sudirman Cup encounter, they could knuckle down with concentration rather than frustration.

This Chinese pairing of Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan (pictured right), in particular, have been counteracting the distinctive features of the Rio Olympic champions very well. By turning defence quickly into offense with regularity, they have create situations which remove Matsutomo’s sting at the net and neutralise Takahashi’s smash.

Today’s semi-final began no differently. Her adversaries prescribed Matsutomo to hang around at the baseline, which she wasn’t uncomfortable doing but it meant her side wasn’t taking charge according to their plan. The Japanese felt the presence of Jia Yifan’s threat. Jia’s effective left handed smash and swift following in penetrated Japanese defenses quickly and, worse still, wreaked constant hesitation upon her opponents.

From special to stereotypical

Matsutomo/Takahashi, who have become known for revolutionising Japanese women’s doubles in having a distinctive style, at some point became relaxed about not being so which turned out to be pivotal. Matsutomo lowered her defence stance to provide stronger resistance during onslaughts and Takahashi continued smashing but without minding that it wasn’t winning points within a certain number of shots or reaching her usual quota of winners for the day.

In other words, they relaxed into being a typical Japanese style from the past and worked out rallies through plain old fashioned tools of the trade which includes letting the half opportunities present themselves instead of hunting for them. The Chinese plan tailored to Matsutomo/Takahashi’s distinctive traits worked once more but had run its course mid-battle.

The final itself will be classical in its own way.  It will pit the Olympic gold medallist and world #1 against the world #2 Rio silver medallists.  Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (pictured bottom) of Denmark wasted three match point opportunities in the second game before finally taking their semi-final in three against Malaysia Open champions Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota of Japan.

Finals line-up
WS:  Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) [3] vs. Nozomi Okuhara (JPN)
WD:  Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [1] vs. Christinna Pedersen / Kamilla Rytter Juhl (DEN) [2]
MS:  Chen Long (CHN) vs. Kidambi Srikanth (IND)
MD:  Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (JPN) [3] vs. Hendra Setiawan (INA) / Tan Boon Heong (MAS)
XD:  Zheng Siwei / Chen Qingchen (CHN) [1] vs. Praveen Jordan / Debby Susanto (INA) [7]

Click here for complete semi-final results

Aaron Wong

About Aaron Wong

Aaron Wong only ever coveted badminton's coolest shot - a reverse backhand clear. He is renowned for two other things: 1) Writing tournament previews that adjust the focus between the panorama of the sport's progress, down to the microscopic level of explaining the striking characteristics of players; 2) Dozing off during men's doubles at the London Olympic Games. Contact him at: aaron @