SINGAPORE OPEN 2012 QF – We only need IPPON!

So near yet so far. Friday was the day when the home crowd for the 2012 Li-Ning Singapore Open Superseries left the stadium with disappointment.  Dark horse winners at this […]

So near yet so far. Friday was the day when the home crowd for the 2012 Li-Ning left the stadium with disappointment.  Dark horse winners at this event two years ago, Yao Lei and Shinta Mulia Sari have been denied a repeat miracle by the players from the ‘Land of Rising Sun’ Miyuki Maeda / Satoko Suetsuna.

By Lee Suetyan, Badzine Correspondent reporting live from Singapore.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

Miyuki and Satoko may not have been performing well recently but they played a superb match tonight at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.  They defeated the local favourites Yao Lei / Shinta Mulia Sari in a battle that lasted for an hour and twenty nine minutes! This match could certainly restore Miyuki and Satoko’s confidence once again before the Olympic Games as they have been going downhill in the past few months.

The game started with a tight one in which neither pair would give the other the chances to take a big lead. Towards the end, the Japanese pair stepped up to take the game point first before they wrapped up the first game with a narrow margin of 21-19. Despite losing the first game narrowly, Yao/Shinta seemingly motivated by the support of the partisan crowd, quickly raced to a 20-17 lead in the second game before they converted it 21-17, much to the delight of the local fans.

Same as the previous days, the chorus of magical chants followed by unison of clappers by the Young Team Singapore Ambassadors (YTSA) and the local fans sustained Yao/Shinta in the second game. The atmosphere at the stadium, was for once, bursting with excitement, as chants of “Singapura” rocked the entire stadium. However, the crowd, seeming to think that chant inadequate, decided to change their chant to “Shinta, Yao Lei, let’s go!”

With the support from home fans, Yao/Shinta had a good start in the rubber game. They took an early lead of 11-9 at the interval. They made the gap bigger after the interval, opening up a 15-10 lead and looked to be cruising to the finish line.

Yet, at this time, Shinta hit the shuttle out at the side line and the umpire had to overrule a very questionable line call.  The Singaporeans stayed focussed and took a lead of 17-13. Nevertheless, the Japanese were not about to give up easily and fought back to bridge the gap to 17-all.

Not to be outdone, the Singaporean pair stepped up their game to reach their first match point at 20-18. But, so near yet so far, they couldn’t secure their match because Miyuki/Satoko saved two match points to make it at 20 all. It was certainly not a lucky day for the Singaporeans as they continued to be denied despite earning a total of six match points!

In contrast, the Japanese only needed one match point at 26-25 then to wrap up the game 27-25 to earn them a precious semi-final ticket. ONE is better than SIX! We only need IPPON! [Ippon means one point in Japanese]

“I was very nervous towards the end of the third game. The Singapore players are very powerful so we have to be very steady,” said Satoko after the match.  “Even though we were trailing, we were waiting for the opportunity to fight back.

“Furthermore, we have very less experience in handling this kind of situation in the final game, so we just tried to be patient and waiting for our opportunity. When times come, we just did it all we have. Hence, our strategy towards the end of the third game was just waiting, waiting and waiting, waiting for the opportunity to come.

“The crowd didn’t affect our game, we just imagined that the crowd was cheering for us.”

The Singapore ladies also shared with the press their thoughts on the match they had just narrowly lost to the Japanese pair.   “It is a very good chance for us to play with them. Even though we lost the game, at least I feel we learnt something,” Yao Lei said.

“I felt quite confident at the last few points, especially when we were leading,” added Shinta.  “Unfortunately the chance was just wasted as we could not finish off the match.

“We were not aggressive enough towards the end. They have superb defense.  We can’t kill them with our attacking.  They would just counter-attack when they had the chance and we can’t react fast enough.”

“I don’t think we were patient enough, especially towards the end of the third game,” continued Yao.  “Like the Japanese players said, they were very patient and waited for their opportunity to attack. We were a bit rushed.  We had the match points, but we didn’t get it.  I feel wasted.

“Also, we felt very confident at the beginning because we had a head to head record of 2-0 against them, but we just couldn’t convert in the end. They played very well, they defended well and were very steady.”

The coach also added as one of the reasons for their loss:  “They did follow the right strategy and game plan. However, they have little experience in handling this kind of situation.”

Continue to rise

Just like Miyuki and Satoko, another Japanese mixed doubles pair Shintaro Ikeda and Reiko Shiota (pictured) – who also seemed to be going downhill at international tournaments recently – defeated the dark horse in this competition.  They beat Indonesia’ Hendra Setiawan and Vita Marissa 21-17, 22-20.

“Before the game began, I told myself I wanted to regain my confidence in this match. I want to win,” said Reiko after the match.

Her partner Shintaro echoed that sentiment, saying: “I want to regain my confidence before the Olympics Games.  I have been trying hard to be confident during the match. Today’s match was a good experience, so I want to win as much as I can.”

Click here for complete quarter-final results

About Suetyan Lee