JAPAN OPEN 2018 Day 2 – Adapt and win!

As Wednesday continued at the Japan Open with the opening rounds of men’s and women’s doubles – featuring Japan’s 4 World Championship medallists – the question becomes: who can beat […]

As Wednesday continued at the with the opening rounds of men’s and women’s doubles – featuring Japan’s 4 World Championship medallists – the question becomes: who can beat the solid Japanese pairs on their home court?

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

Japan is really ruling the roost in women’s doubles these days but of the 6 Japanese pairs in the world’s top 15 only 2 won matches in the opening round of the Japan Open.  Two other pairs were beaten, two advanced with byes, and two pairs from way outside the top 15 also advanced to the round of 16 in their home event.

As on Tuesday, play on Wednesday began with an appearance by a Japanese World Champion.  Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara – who did not make the cut for the very prestigious Asian Games last month – appeared in the opening match and defeated the Russian pairing of Bolotova and Davletova 21-9, 21-12 in just 29 minutes.  They will go on to face European Championship bronze medallists Thygesen and Fruergaard on Thursday.

World Championship bronze medallists Shiho Tanaka and Koharu Yonemoto (pictured right) were up next, playing against Chinese pair Tang Jinhua and Yu Xiaohan (pictured below).  The Chinese pair got the first game 21-17 on the strength of a run of 8 consective points.  In the second game as well, the Japanese pair couldn’t stop the pace of Chinese pair’s attack and Tang and Yu prevailed 21-17, 21-10.

“I felt the shuttles were heavy and slow,” Shiho Tanaka said after the match, “but it seemed to suit the Chinese pair so they were able to hit strong smashes many times, and we couldn’t receive them well.  We know we don’t have much power, so we realized we need to come up with better tactics.”

If the wins by Matsumoto/Nagahara and by Singapore Open champions Ayako Sakuramoto / Yukiko Takahata were expected, the biggest upset for Japan came from world #31 Misato Aratama / Akane Watanabe.  They saw off #16 Anggia Shitta Awanda / Ni Ketut Mahadewi Istarani in straight games.

Many players felt the shuttle speed was quite slow in this new hall, but the pairs who kept on the offensive were still able to win in many cases.

Olympic silver medallists Goh V Shem / Tan Wee Kiong blew a match point opportunity in their second game against world #28 Manu Attri / Sumeeth Reddy.  After the Indians saved the second game, the deciding game was close and from a Malaysian lead at 19-17, the Indian underdogs made off with 4 consective points to win it 21-19.

After the match, Goh said, “We tried to get the second game but couldn’t because the opponent had all the luck.”

“The shuttles were quite slow.  Men’s doubles level is almost the same nowadays.  Adapting to the court conditions faster is the key to winning,” Tan added.

Another key win went to veterans with famously strong tactics.  All Japan Champion Endo/Watanabe played against two-time former World Champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan (pictured right).  The Indonesians got the first game and reach the match point in the second game.  The Japanese pair got 3 straight points to force the decider but after they kept it close up to 15-13, Hendra Setiawan upped the pace and took control of the net area.  Ahsan also followed his pace and after a run of 5 points, the  Japanese pair was not able to change anything and they succombed to the 2013 winners in three.

“In the deciding game, we tried to change the rallies to a faster pace.  That suited us and we were able to grab the win,” Ahsan said afterward.

Setiawan added, “Anyway, we are happy to win.  The Japanese pair have always been fast.

“This hall is very nice and wide, but I still love the venue in Indonesia the best because Indonesian fans always cheer us up,” he added.

While technically, Endo/Watanabe suffered an upset with the former World Champions now being ranked slightly below them, the biggest upsets came a little later in the day, two of them involving other Japanese pairs and visitors from China.  First, German Open winners and world #7 Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko went down to China’s He Jiting / Tan Qiang (pictured).  Then Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi (pictured bottom) saw off former World Champions Liu Cheng / Zhang Nan in straight games.

Click here for complete Wednesday 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