TUC 2010 Semifinals – Indonesia deny Japan’s comeback SHOw

Japan’s Sho Sasaki breathed life into the Japanese camp when he upset Indonesia’s Simon Santoso in the second singles match. The Indonesians’ experience on the big stage eventually separated the […]

Japan’s Sho Sasaki breathed life into the Japanese camp when he upset Indonesia’s Simon Santoso in the second singles match. The Indonesians’ experience on the big stage eventually separated the two teams as Japan were sucked out of their depth and lost 1-3.

By Jan Lin and Selina Ng, reporting ‘live’ in Kuala Lumpur. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Just as it is in many sports, at crunch times, the experienced players know better what it takes to win.

Japan’s rising star Tago Kenichi may have caused a stir in the badminton world recently following his gallant run at the 2010 All-England where he beat the likes of Chen Jin and Bao Chunlai to enter the final, but shouldering the leading man role for Japan has proved to be overwhelming.

Even at the Thomas Cup qualifiers 2 months ago, Tago had stretched Taufik to an epic tiebreaker before bowing out. But this afternoon 20-year-old Tago was sliced apart 9-21, 15-21 by Indonesia’s Taufik Hidayat, who scooped the first point for his team with a stylish off-the-tape cross smash finish.

Kenichi said: “My finishing was not very good today but I can’t figure out why yet. Of course I was nervous but the factor is not as simple as that, it’s much more complicated.”

The Thomas Cup finals have been a time of revelation for Japan’s top seed. Tago added: “I realised that my level is not up to the level of other top players in the world. Taufik is the player that I respect the most.  Even though I’ve been beaten other top players, I still respect Taufik the most.”

Meanwhile, for Taufik, the golden question was clearly whether this was his final Thomas Cup. Taufik said: “Two years ago, I said that was my last Thomas Cup, but I’m still here so if two years from now, I’m still the best in Indonesia and able to commit, then if the PBSI asks me to play, I will play again.”

The story line of the Taufik-Tago match was exactly repeated in the first men’s doubles match, where Indonesia’s reigning Olympic champions Hendra Setiawan / Markis Kido (pictured top left) crushed Japan’s Kenichi Hayakawa / Kenta Kazuno 21-9, 21-11 in just 23 minutes.

But Japan was not ready to back down even as they were trailing 0-2. Calling on the experience of Sho Sasaki (pictured right), though he is ranked lower than Japan’s world number 30 Kazushi Yamada, Sho rose above expectations and beat Simon Santoso 21-19, 13-21, 21-11, and kept the tie alive. Sho had completely outplayed Simon in the tiebreaker.

The 27-year-old Sho, who is a father-to-be in two months time, said after the game: “I didn’t feel the pressure eventhough Japan was 2-0 and I just took it as a challenge for myself. I watched vidoes of Simon playing to prepare for this and I knew that he was in good condition, so I just tried to catch up with him throughout the game.”

Japan’s miracle run was quickly put to an end when Indonesia’s 33-year-old Nova Widianto calmly stepped onto the court and showed the other three players in the game quite simply that often all it takes to win a big game is simply keeping the shots in, nothing fancy.

Nova Widianto / Alvent Chandra (pictured left) held four match points but Japan’s scratch pair Hirata Noriyasu / Endo Hiroyuki put the game into deuce before serving into the net and then returning Indonesia’s match point serve into the net to give Indonesia their eighteenth ticket to the Thomas Cup final.

“We were relaxed throughout the game till they chased back”, said mixed doubles specialist Nova Widianto, “but we were stll confident to win the match. If possible, we will choose to play against Malaysia in the finals and we will be more spirited to fight the home team!”

Japan’s head coach Korean Park Joo Bong concluded: “We are very happy with our team’s performance. This is our first time in the semifinals of the Thomas Cup and we have certainly reached our target. There are five very strong teams, but we managed to get into the semifinals. This is the result of my players’ hard work.”

“If we had won the second doubles”, Park Joo Bong said introspectively, “we were confident of getting into the finals but unfortunately it did not happen. It is still our hope to do better in the future, but we know the top five teams – China, Denmark, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia – are still a higher level than us.”

Indonesia will play the winner of China and Malaysia in the 2010 Thomas Cup final on Sunday.

Badzine is reporting ‘live’ at the 2010 Thomas and Uber Cup Finals in Kuala Lumpur! Check back for our daily news updates and follow us on Facebook and Twitter.To enjoy our live PHOTO GALLERY, CLICK HERE.

Live video feeds of the 2010 Thomas and Uber Cup finals can also be watched on Totalsports.tv!

About Jan Lin