JAPAN OPEN 2019 SF – Home heroes target three titles

The women’s singles title is already assured to stay in Japan, but the home shuttlers may take two extra titles on Sunday. By Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondent live in Tokyo. […]

The women’s singles title is already assured to stay in Japan, but the home shuttlers may take two extra titles on Sunday.

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

Three Japanese women’s doubles pairs top the current world ranking but only two will be able to participate in the Olympics next year. They need to win more than other Japanese pairs to get the ticket to the next Olympic in Tokyo. On Saturday, reigning gold medallists of the World Championships and Rio Olympic Games were facing each other in the semi-final at next year’s Olympic venue in their home country.

The opening match was the women’s doubles between Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara and Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi. The World Champions made sure their opponents couldn’t use their best combination – Takahashi attacking from the back while Matsutomo kills the shuttle from the net. The world #1s patiently defended but also hit the shuttles to push Matsutomo to the back. This tactic worked very well and Matsumoto/Nagahara beat the Olympic champions 21-16,21-19.

“I’m very happy to reach the final. Today, we felt like we were just the challengers,” said Nagahara afterward.  “Their combination is better than ours, so we focused on our defense along with our tactics. Both teams can attack from the net and the rear so we wanted to take our chances to attack as early as possible in the rally. I believe we were able to do so.

“We did our best. We gave many points in the latter part of the second game and our opponents almost caught us but we managed to stay calm at that time. That was the key to today’s win,” she added.

Misaki Matsutomo said after the match, “Our returns were bad today but we still tried to never give up. That’s good at least.”

Takahashi added: “Our returns were not good today. We changed our tactics from the end of the second game because we thought it was bad to play with same tactics as usual. Anyway, this is just one loss. We will keep thinking positive and take next match with a good spirit.”

Men’s singles World Champion Kento Momota – who also happens to be defending champion at the – played against Sai Praneeth from India. They had faced each other in Singapore this year and had a close match, which Momota won 22-20 in the deciding game. Momota had studied tactics against Sai Praneeth, especially his deception game. So this time, Momota was able to anticipate his opponent’s shots and won 21-18, 21-12 to reach the final for the second straight year.

“My opponent has great skills,” said Momota after the match.  “He can change the course of the shuttle after I start moving, so today I changed my tactic from last our match and that worked well.  Actually I was nervous today because I really wanted to win this Japan Open title. When I entered the court, many children cheered me up by calling my name – which helped me to calm down –  so I’m really grateful to them today.”

In the other semi-final, Asian Games gold medallist Jonatan Christie played against Jan O Jorgensen, who had already beaten Lin Dan and Chou Tien Chen in earlier rounds.  Christie won 21-14, 21-14 to reach the final.

Christie said after match “Jorgensen’s performance was quite good today. Last year, I seemed to play only aggressively in the match without thinking about my stamina but I have been able to manage my performance with patience this year. I will face to Momota in the final tomorrow. I’m sure he is quite good player in speed, skills and so on but he is also a person the same as I am so I believe he must have weak points. I will try to find his weak points tonight,” added Christie with a smile.

The mixed doubles confrontation between Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying and China’s Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping ended as a one-sided story for the Chinese. World number one pair Zheng Siwei / Huang Yaqiong had lost in the quarter-final so Wang Yilyu was nervous because they were then China’s last hope in this category. The Chinese were stable and made powerful attacks while the Malaysians tried to break their opponents’ pace but Wang and Huang won 21-10, 21-6 in just 32 minutes.

“We prepared well for this match. There are many tough times in each match. We always prepare to play well in crucial points,” said Huang.

“Chinese players are expected to get a title in every tournament so our coach put pressure on us to take the title. We’ll prepare well for tomorrow,” Wang added.

The women’s singles final will be an all-Japan affair between Nozomi Okuhara (pictured right) and Akane Yamaguchi while the men’s doubles final will be a rematch of last week’s Indonesia Open final between Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo / Marcus Fernaldi Gideon.

Finals line-up
WS:  Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) [3] vs. Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) [4]
WD:  Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (JPN) [1] vs. Kim So Yeong / Kong Hee Yong (KOR)
MS:  Kento Momota (JPN) [1] vs. Jonatan Christie (INA) [6]
XD:  Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN) [2] vs. Praveen Jordan Melati Daeva Oktavianti (INA) [7]
MD:  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) [1] vs. Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (INA) [4]
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