JAPAN OPEN 2018 SF – Thai’s dream run sets up final with Momota

Kento Momota wins the battle of current and former World Champions but he will meet Cinderella-story Khosit Phetpradab, who is playing his first final in a 6-figure tournament. By Miyuki […]

wins the battle of current and former World Champions but he will meet Cinderella-story Khosit Phetpradab, who is playing his first final in a 6-figure tournament.

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

No one can stop Kento Momota (pictured right) at this .  On Friday, after he proved he could outperform legend Lin Dan, the spectators were eagerly anticipating his showdown with Viktor Axelsen, the battle of the 2017 and 2018 World Champions.  Momota appeared on court with the defending champion and world #1 Viktor Axelsen immediately after Japan suffered a disappointing loss in mixed doubles and the fans were keen for some good news.

It didn’t look to be starting well for Japan, as Viktor Axelsen (pictured below) moved out to a good  lead late in the first game.  Then Momota tried changing his pace and mixing in some clear shots and took 5 consective points, en route to snatching the opening game 21-18.

In the second game, Axelsen tried to up his speed and attacked more.  This change was good for the Dane as he moved into an 8-6 lead but then he sent a couple of strong smashes out and it was soon clear that his combination of tactics was not enough against Momota.  Axelsen was not able to play patiently and lost the second game quickly.

“I was disappointed about many errors I made in the second game,” said Axelsen afterward.  “I tried to speed up more in the second, but my combination of tactics didn’t work well for me.  Anyway, Momota played very well today.”

Momota said, “Viktor is always strong.  I realized he studied my performance very much.  This is 4th match for both of us this week, so I felt both of our stamina were not enough.

“I tried playing aggressively, but I was not able to trust my smashes would stay in on the sidelines strictly so I used many clear shots and waited for a chance to kill the shuttle.  When I took a chance and hit a cut shot, I believe it almost touched the floor, but Viktor could return it clearly.  I think I need to improve my performance to level up.”

While that semi-final was between the current and former World Champions, the other semi-final featured Korean Lee Dong Keun and Thailand’s Khosit Phetpradab (pictured right) playing to see which player would reach the biggest final of their career.  Both players played well during the tournament, with Phetpradab having defeated current and former All England champions, while Lee had taken down two former world #1s.

In the first game, Lee made many errors because Phetpradab controlled the shuttles and moved fast, winning it easily 21-12.  In the second game, the Thailand player’s speed was down and he began to make some errors.  Lee caught Phetpradab with a 6-point run and had control by the interval.

After the short break, Phetpradab’s speed came back to him, and he regained control of the shuttle.  Korean player attacked strongly, but Thailand player never gave up and returned strictly.  Phetpradab defeat Lee 21-12,21-16 and finally reach the final.

“I made many errors today.  I should have played the same pace as my opponent did.  I may have been trying to kill the shuttle in a hurry,” Lee Dong Keun (pictured left) said after the match.  “But I am happy to reach the semi-final this time.  It is one of my aims.  I will train more and come back stronger to the Japan Open next year.”

Phetpradab said, “I’m very happy to reach the final for the first time in such a big tournament.  I played patiently, and my opponent may have been moving a bit slowly.  I was able to move on the court correctly.

“Anyway, I feel very happy.  I feel nervous for the final.  Actually, I’m always nervous before a match.  When I was junior, I had matches with Momota, Axelsen and other top players because we are all the same age.  I felt Momota was the best of all at that time but I will just do my best performance on the court and I want to see how effectively my performances will work on Momota.”

The final will be Phetpradab’s first since the Vietnam Open last year, which he won.   In fact, that Grand Prix event last year was the biggest tournament final the Thai had ever contested, before this week.

World Championship final repeats coming

The opening match on semi-finals day pitted mixed doubles World Champions and Asian Games gold medallists Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong (pictured below) against Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (pictured).  The Malaysians, who came in having won their only previous match with the world #1 pair, kept their concentration and got out to an early lead.  The Chinese pair seemed to have trouble adapting to the court at the beginning, but played better and better after the interval and soon took the opener 21-16.

In the second game, Malaysian tried to manage their pace with their great tactics while the Chinese pair made many errors and the match was soon level.  In the deciding game, Zheng and Huang sped up and attacked more.  The strong offense was hard for the Malaysians to counter even with their great skills and experience and the top seeds closed it out 21-14.

“We lost the last our match [against them] in the Indonesia Open,” Zheng said after the win.  “I’m happy to win today but we shouldn’t have made so many errors in the second game.  Our combination is already good, so we can recover quickly from bad situations now.”

Huang added, “I was not able to focus at the beginning of the match.  We talked with our coach after last match we lost to them before so I was able to play with patience.  We know the Malaysian pair is very strong so they don’t give us any runs of points easily.  We just never give up.”

Goh Liu Ying said, “The game was good, but not good enough.  They are young and made a lot of strong attacking.  We were not able to defend.

“We were able to use our tactics made from our longer experience in the second game,” Chan added.  “We will take care of our bodies and keep good condition to play better and longer.”

Meanwhile, China’s other mixed pair in doubles Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (pictured) caused disappointment for Japanese fans when they defeated Yuta Watanabe / Arisa Higashino, who this year became the first Japanese All England champions in this category.  They went down in straight games to the world #2.

“We know the Japanese pair is strong and here is their home,” said Wang Yilyu, “so we studied hard yesterday to prepare for this important match.  Actually they played well and this was the hardest of ourfour matches here.  But we tested our tactics here in the 2020 Olympic venue so this win and reaching the final is worth it for us.”

The victories for the two Chinese pairs means that the mixed final will be a repeat of the World Championships.  Japan still has a shot at 3 titles on Sunday, including from world #1 Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota, whose final against Chen/Jia will be a repeat of last year’s final at the Worlds.  The Japanese pair played two gruelling games against Indonesia’s Polii/Rahayu, winning the match on a marathon rally which, at 189 shots, was not even the longest of the match.

Finals line-up
MS:  Kento Momota (JPN) [3] vs. Khosit Phetpradab (THA)
WD:  Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) [1] vs. Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan (CHN) [3]
XD:  Zheng Siwei Huang Yaqiong (CHN) [1] vs. Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN) [2]
WS:  Carolina Marin (ESP) [6] vs. Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) [8]
MD:  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) [1] vs. Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen (CHN) [2]

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