JAPAN OPEN 2012 SF – Confidence regained

Japan sent five doubles pair to this year’s Japan Open semi-finals but the sole successful pair was Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito, who missed the London Olympics as the third […]

Japan sent five doubles pair to this year’s semi-finals but the sole successful pair was Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito, who missed the London Olympics as the third Japanese pair, but have fought to get their confidence back.

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

Japan’s first ever Olympic badminton medal at London last month has raised expectations for its women’s team to perform well, including Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito (pictured), who just missed the cut for London by a mere 501 points.

“We did not make it to the Olympics, and so we want to use this tournament to build up confidence,” said Mami Naito after their convincing 21-14, 21-17 win against Koreans Choi Hye In / Kim So Young.

“We don’t have a very strong attack, so we tried to move the shuttle around.  After the second game interval, we found ourselves leading 14-11, we were much focused.”

“The last time when we lost to them, we had difficulty coming back to our formation whenever they moved the shuttle quickly, so we specifically set a goal to improve in that aspect in order to win the next time we face them,” said Choi Hye In.

The other Japanese women’s doubles pair, Miyuki Maeda / Satoko Suetsuna, fought gallantly, scoring 9 consecutive points to take the first game 21-16. Their Hong Kong opponents Poon Lok Yan / Tse Ying Suet (pictured), however, changed their tactics and fought their way back to demolish the Japanese in the second game, 21-8.

In the final and deciding game, the Hong Kong pair had more initiative and were more positive, smashing the defense of the Japanese opponents, defeating them 21-18 breaking the hearts of a Japanese crowd who were hoping for an all-Japanese women’s doubles final.

“We played well today.  We are younger than our opponents so naturally we had the speed.  Last year, we were semi-finalists and this year, we hope to bring home the gold,” said Poon Lok Yan.

Regarding men’s doubles, Japan’s Hiroyuki Saeki / Ryota Taohata (pictured) faced off against Korea’s Kim Sa Rang / Kim Ki Jung, each hoping to reach a final for the first time ever.

“Be careful of their fast drive shots, just play positively,” Hayakawa, who yesterday lost to the Koreans, advised his Japanese team-mates before the match.  Saeki/Taohata tried to slow down the rallies but there was no stopping the Koreans, who managed to play their style of game through combinations of drop shots and fast drives, easily taking 2 straight games 21-9, 21-8.

“I was nervous before the match,” Kim Sa Rang said afterward.  “In yesterday’s match against another Japanese pair Hayakawa/Endo, the pace was fast so I was expecting another fast-paced game today against their Japanese team-mates.  But it seems that Saeki/Taohata couldn’t catch up with our speed.

“We are happy to be in the best four of a Superseries.  We lost but we also realized the difference between us and the players of world stage.  We will practice a lot,” said Hiroyuki Saeki after losing their semi-final.

Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong and their younger team-mates Hoon Thien How / Tan Wee Kiong battled it out in the other semi-final, an all-Malaysian affair.

“We practice together, so we were a bit relaxed playing each other today.  We are familiar with each other’s skills and tactics,” Tan said as they took straight games 21-15, 21-17 to earn a seat in the final.

Malaysia’s top-seeded Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying took on Japan’s Takeshi Kamura / Koharu Yonemoto in mixed doubles.  The Malaysians deliberately slowed down the pace while the Japanese mixed doubles pair strived to speed it up.  In the end, Malaysia got used to the Japanese fast-paced style and narrowly took the first game 21-19.

At the change of court, the Malaysians found themselves against the drift to their favour, and took another game 21-13 to move on to the finals.

A much anticipated mixed doubles match between Japan’s Shintaro Ikeda / Reiko Shiota (pictured) and Indonesia’s scratch pairing Muhammad Rijal / Lilyana Natisir put the crowd in a sentimental mood, with the Japanese fans nervously feeling that this could be Reiko Shiota’s last badminton match.  The veteran Indonesians displayed superb badminton skills and found themselves breezing through 21-9, 21-11 in just 24 minutes.

“We are very relaxed and enjoying this experience,” said Muhammad Rijal after the match.

“We were able to play our mixed doubles game and that was more than enough to put us into the finals,” added Lilyana.

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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