SUDIRMAN CUP QF – Japan deals Malaysia agonizing defeat

Top-seeded Japan survived a first match scare to win a bloody battle with Malaysia 3-0 and book a semi-final against Indonesia at the Sudirman Cup. By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto […]

Top-seeded Japan survived a first match scare to win a bloody battle with Malaysia 3-0 and book a semi-final against Indonesia at the .

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

The quarter-finals at the 2019 Sudirman Cup ended completely free of upsets but they were not without drama, especially when top seeds Japan met Indonesia in the early session on Friday in Nanning.  Japan perhaps took a bit of a gamble in starting with their top pair Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda (pictured right) at men’s doubles.  The world #2 had never beaten Ong Yew Sin / Teo Ee Yi  prior to Friday, while the Malaysians were winless in 4 matches against Japan’s second pair.

As might have been predicted, Kamura and Sonoda had major problems with the Malaysians and dropped the first game, scoring only 13 points.  By late in the second, though, they looked as if they had completely taken control as they moved out to an 18-13 lead and appeared to be cruising toward forcing a decider.

But then Ong and Teo figured they’d had enough and they mounted a 6-point run that put the Japanese under all kinds of pressure as they dashed and dove and drove into the lead.  Kamura and Sonoda managed game point, though, and then another, and another, and they never let the Malaysians earn a match point, despite their repeated failures to convert and finally luck turned their way and they grabbed the game 26-24 to force a decider.

If that wasn’t enough excitement for one match, the Japanese were again stalled at 18 in the third game when the Malaysians reeled them in with a 4-point run.  But it was the next point that made the lead changes all seem temporarily irrelevant.

With both Malaysians diving to the corner in an unsuccessful attempt to retrieve a deep push by Takeshi Kamura, Teo Ee Yi (pictured top) was caught in the chin by Ong’s foot and lay flat on his back bleeding as medical personnel rushed in to administer bandages.  It was 8 more minutes before play resumed with Teo sporting substantial bandaging on his chin.

The Malaysians collided again on the next point, with Ong leaping backward to attempt to put away a floater at the net and his racquet caught Teo on the forearm this time before snapping the shuttle into the net.  The Japanese would need two more match points after that one, though, before Sonoda finally ended it with a crisp smash down the line and the favourites had secured the opening point.

It was all according to script after that, with both Nozomi Okuhara and Kento Momota (pictured below) looking a little jittery and allowing themselves to be reeled in a few times before both stars won their singles matches in straight games.  Soniia Cheah and Lee Zii Jia fought hard for Malaysia but could not find the formula to beat the former and current World Champions respectively.

Indonesia back in the hunt

Two years ago, Indonesia failed to reach the semi-finals for only the second time in Sudirman Cup history.  This time around, it wasn’t as smooth as they might have liked but they found a way past Chinese Taipei 3-2 to deny their challengers a first appearance in the Sudirman’s final four.

Unlike in the other quarter-final, where Japan had an overwhelming edge in the next three matches, the opening men’s doubles between Chinese Taipei and Indonesia was crucial.  The 1989 champions fielded their world #1 pair, of course, but India Open winners Lee Yang / Wang Chi-Lin can pose problems for the best of pairs and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo knew better than to take their challenge lightly.  As it turned out, the favourites never allowed Lee and Wang to lead in the first game and after a slower start in the second, they were back in the driver’s seat by the interval and never looked back.

Chinese Taipei bounced back quickly and emphatically with a straight-game win by world #1 Tai Tzu Ying over youngster Gregoria Mariska.  What mounted the pressure on the Indonesians, though, was the men’s singles match, which featured a repeat of the Asian Games final, between Jonatan Christie and Chou Tien Chen (pictured above).

Indonesian coaches made a sound choice in selecting Christie, knowing he would be facing Chou, a higher-ranked player to whom he had never lost.  But Chou came ready to play and he dominated the match, winning in just 36 minutes.

Indonesia came roaring back in the women’s doubles, where they knew they would have an overwhelming advantage.  Mixed doubles saw Chinese Taipei again forced to field a scratch pair and although Hsieh Pei Shan supported Wang Chi Lin well in mounting a strong challenge for Chinese Taipei, logic again prevailed as Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti (pictured) took it in straight games, giving Indonesia the 3-2 edge and seeing them through to a semi-final encounter with Japan.

Canada best of the rest

In the evening session, Canada duked it out with France for top honours in Group 2.  The highlight there was world #122 Brian Yang (pictured) running roughshod over former top 20 shuttler Brice Leverdez.  Canada sealed that tie 3-1 with the win by two-time Pan Am Champions Rachel Honderich / Kristen Tsai in the women’s doubles.

Group 3 top seeds Ireland fell 2-3 to Sri Lanka as Kavidi Sirimannage contributed points in both women’s singles and doubles.

The semi-finals begin at 11AM local time in Nanning with China taking on Thailand, while Japan meets Indonesia in the evening session.

Click here for complete results from Friday’s quarter-finals

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net