New Asian Junior Mixed Team Champions Japan again met China in a final, this time in front of a home crowd, but narrowly missed repeating their July triump as China regained the world title.
By Hitoshi Yoshiki, Badzine Correspondent live in Chiba. Photos: Miyuki Komiya for Badzine (live)
In the first match of the final, Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (pictured below) beat a scratch Chinese pairing of Liu Yuchen and Zhang Ningyi. The Japanese pair took the thrilling deciding game, avoiding 2 match points before closing it out 23-21. Liu Yuchen, the only face different face from the Asian Junior team final, brought his performance at the net into view, but it wasn’t enough to stop the home stars.
“We were in a good mood with a bit of pressure,” Yuki told Badzine after the match. “The shuttles were not flying the same way as they were yesterday so it was difficult for both pairs to control the shuttles in the beginning of the match.”
“We played against them when they played with other partners. We won all of the matches so we believed we could win if we could play as usual,” Takuto added.
The second match was girls’ singles and the 2011 Japanese champion Nozomi Okuhara challenged Sun Yu (pictured below) in a match-up that was unnecessary in the Asian Junior team final due to Japan’s 3-0 victory.
Nozomi was beaten easily by Sun en route to the latter’s 2011 Asia Junior Championship title. This time, Nozomi controlled the shuttles, using all 4 corners of the Chinese player’s court. However, Sun used her long arms and legs to reach all the shots easily and she beat the Japanese hope 21-17,21-14.
“I know she’s tall but her slice shots and smashes were much better than I expected. However, it’s not as bad as last time. It was 4-21 last year,” Nozomi said after the match.
In the boys’ singles, Xue Song was eager to exact revenge for their last match, where he had blown a match point against now Asian Junior Champion Kento Momota (pictured below). Xue showed breathtaking performance and again took the first game easily.
Xue rolled up the score on Kento in the second game as well, to 19-14, only 2 points away from the win. Kento refreshed his mind and focused on the net shots. Then the Japanese took 7 consecutive points and got the 2nd game dramatically 21-19.
Xue got another lead, at 13-8 in the deciding game; however, Kento accomplished yet another come-from-behind victory and nabbed a second point for his team with a 19-21, 21-19, 21-19 win.
“In fact, I was not in good condition,” confessed Kento afterward. “I couldn’t win without big cheers from the spectators and my team-mates. It’s my delight to be a ‘hero’ today,”
After the close men’s singles, China’s Huang Yaqiong / Yu Xiaohan attempted to revive China’s pride as champions and beat Japan’s Ayako Sakuramoto / Chisato Hoshi easily, 21-6, 21-7 in just 24 minutes.
Akira Koga and Akane Yamaguchi, who played such an important role in the Asian Juniors, had an even more difficult struggle this time. Unlike in Gimcheon, where they clinched the crucial first point in mixed doubles, this time the mixed was a winner-take-all contest to break the 2-all draw.
Against China’s Wang Yilu and Chen Qingchen, Koga and Yamaguchi found it difficult to return Wang’s high-speed smash and Chen’s blocks at the net. The Chinese pair got the first game with good tactics 21-15. The Japanese pair, meanwhile, changed theirs and became more offensive, getting a good start in the second game. The game stayed close until the end and the Japanese got it 21-19.
In the decider, both pairs managed to keep their concentration from beginning to end, so the game was again very tight. Akira and Akane made a strenuous effort and saved two match points to bring up 20-20 at 1-1 in the final match at 2-2 in the tie.
The home team then earned one match point of their own and saved another, but it was the Chinese who finally came away with the photo finish at 24-22 finally.
Mixed team final results
BD: Zhang Ningyi / Liu Yuchen (CHN) lost to Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (JPN) 17-21, 21-17, 21-23
GS: Sun Yu (CHN) bt Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) 21-17, 21-14
BS: Xue Song (CHN) lost to Kento Momota (JPN) 21-19, 19-21, 19-21
GD: Huang Yaqiong / Yu Xiaohan (CHN) bt Ayako Sakuramoto / Chisato Hoshi (JPN) 21-6, 21-7
XD: Wang Yilu / Chen Qingchen (CHN) bt Akira Koga / Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) 21-15, 19-21, 24-22
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