JAPAN OPEN 2017 SF – Japanese Doubles Shine!

Takuro Hoki, Takuto Inoue, Yuki Kaneko became the third and fourth & fifth Japanese men to book appearances in final matches at the Japan Open as the home team added upsets […]

Takuro Hoki, Takuto Inoue, Yuki Kaneko became the third and fourth & fifth Japanese men to book appearances in final matches at the as the home team added upsets to their established women’s doubles dominance.

By Emzi Regala, Badzine Correspondent live in Tokyo.  Photos: Yves Lacroix / Badmintonphoto (live)

The strength of Japanese doubles was in full display at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium today.   Sunday’s finals at the Japan Open will be top bannered by reigning Olympic champions Ayaka Takahashi / Misaki Matsutomo in the women’s doubles, Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (pictured top) in men’s doubles, and Takuro Hoki / Sayaka Hirota in mixed doubles.

Naoko Fukuman / Kurumi Yonao, on the other hand failed to create the expected all-Japanese clash in the women’s doubles final, going down to the new Korean pairing of Kim Ha Na and Kong Hee Yong (pictured).  After the two upsets benefitting the home team, this one at the expense of a home favourite meant that Kong would be the only non-Japanese player to make Sunday her debut in a final.

“Our second-round qualification win against the Chinese [Korea Open winners Huang Yaqiong / Yu Xiaohan] gave Hee Yong a big confidence boost,” said Kim Ha Na after the match.  “I always needed to play the role of the senior partner providing extra support to her.  Today she has displayed so much maturity and confidence, so I only needed to concentrate on playing.”

Takuro Hoki accompanied Sayaka Hirota (pictured below) on her first of two semi-final appearances on Saturday.  They took a nail-biting victory to end the gold medal pursuit by India’s Pranaav Jerry Chopra / Sikki Reddy 12-21, 21-18,21-19.

What was a first Superseries semi-final for the Japanese as a pair was the first ever for either of the Indians but the result put Hoki in his first final in this top echelon, just a week after reaching his own first Superseries semi.

On the other court, Praveen Jordan / Debby Susanto failed to carry on their winning streak from last week’s Korea Open, giving way for Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping, who lost last Sunday’s final to Indonesians, the ticket to the finals against Hoki/Hirota.

World #2 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (pictured below) finally broke their losing streak against their arch nemeses, current world #1 Boe/Morgensen.  The match was over after two exciting games, which were much more of a spectacle than the 21-15, 21-14 scores would suggest.

“Did you have fun watching us?  I certainly hope you did because we had a lot of fun playing the match!” said the beaming Gideon during the post-match interview.

“We could not keep up with the intense long rallies.  Our legs were barely able to move,” explained Boe of the Danish pair’s loss.

Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko went to a rubber game against Russia’s Ivanov/Sozonov but finally finished it off 12-21, 21-18, 21-19, effectively booking their first ever appearance in a Superseries final.  The pair reached their first Grand Prix final more than 3 years ago, but the progress has been so much faster in the past year, when they have gone from their first Grand Prix Gold final last October, to their first title in July, and now they have a chance to become the first men to win a Japan Open title at home.

In men’s singles, Lee Chong Wei (pictured below) scored a victory against Shi Yuqi.  The first game was close but in the second, Lee got back to the dominance he enjoyed over his opponent in the All England final.

“Suddenly, I did not know what to do in the 2nd game.  I totally lost confidence,” said the beleaguered Shi after the match, citing that his inexperience is the most probable culprit.

World champion Viktor Axelsen in contrast, displayed full confidence against his opponent Son Wan Ho (pictured bottom), taking both games in identical scores 21-16.

“Son Wan Ho is a very tough opponent, he is the world #1 so I have to be very prepared.  There were some lapses in the middle but I think I handled the late stages of the game very well”, said Axelsen.

Incidentally, while playing Son will no doubt continue to require preparation, it will be Axelsen with the status as blocking Son from reaching the final means that the Dane will also take his place as world #1 as of Thursday.

Much to the disappointment of the Japanese fans, the highly anticipated women’s singles match between Nozomi Okuhara and Carolina Marin did not materialize as Okuhara had to pull out of the tournament due to injury, gifting Marin with a walkover to the final.

In the other semi-final match, defending champion He Bingjiao fended off fierce opposition from compatriot Chen Yufei, getting through in straight games 21-14, 25-23.

Finals line-up
WD:  Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [1] vs. Kim Ha Na / Kong Hee Yong (KOR)
MD:  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo [3] vs. Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (JPN)
XD:  Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN) vs. Takuro Hoki / Sayaka Hirota (JPN)
WS:  Carolina Marin (ESP) [5] vs. He Bingjiao (CHN) [6]
MS:  Viktor Axelsen (DEN) [3] vs. Lee Chong Wei (MAS) [5]

Click here for complete semi-final results

About Emzi Regala