JAPAN OPEN 2019 QF – 3 top seeds toppled

Canada’s Michelle Li sent off current world #1 Tai Tzu Ying and started off a string of top seed defeats in the quarter–finals while Jonatan Christie succeeded in changing his feelings […]

Canada’s Michelle Li sent off current world #1 Tai Tzu Ying and started off a string of top seed defeats in the quarterfinals while Jonatan Christie succeeded in changing his feelings toward the future Olympic venue.

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

Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying, who has been ranked #1 in the world for all but 2 weeks since December 2016, lost her quarter-final Friday at the to Michelle Li (pictured right) from Canada.  Tai, who narrowly let it slip away 20-22 in the deciding game, will also lose her #1 status come Tuesday, overtaken by another Japan Open semi-finalist.

But ranking seemed the least of Tai Tzu Ying’s worries on Friday, as she was not able to move on court with her usual fitness.  The uncomfortable footwork led to many mistakes because she was not able to control the shuttles without smooth footwork.

“I performed quite well today.  I like this venue because I could focus my performance,” Li said after the match.

“I will have a match with Okuhara tomorrow.  I have played against her many times in the past.  I’m going to prepare well for the semi-final tomorrow,” added Li, who is now one victory away from entering the world’s top ten for the first time in her career.

Tai Tzu Ying (pictured left) said after the match, “I couldn’t move on court as I wanted to do.  My footwork was bad, so my shuttle control was also bad.  My body condition is okay, so I don’t know why I couldn’t play as usual.”

After Tai’s loss, Japanese Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota , who returned to the #1 spot in the women’s doubles world rankings this week, lost to China’s Li Wenmei / Zheng Yu (pictured below) in straight games.  This result, too, will cost them their world ranking as World Champions Matsumoto/Nagahara will resume their reign when the new rankings are released.

The Chinese pair made a good start with strong attack and kept the aggressive style from start till the end.  The Japanese pair tried to change some things but their tactics didn’t work against the Chinese pair.

After the match, the defending champions were visibly disappointed and Hirota said, “I was not able to calm down so I didn’t know what I should do.”

“In a doubles match, sometimes one of us can’t play well but it is normal so we just cover each other when we play.  We will change our feeling and focus on the next tournament,” added Fukushima.

Mixed doubles world #1 Zheng Siwei has spent almost as long in that spot as Tai Tzu Ying.  He also lost in the Japan Open quarter-finals but his reign atop the world rankings is still secure for the foreseeable future.

In fact, Zheng and Huang Yaqiong were the only one of the three #1s defeated on Friday who were beaten by former top ten players.  Hafiz Faizal / Gloria Emamuelle Widjaja (pictured left) from Indonesia are ranked #13 in the world now but just 3 short weeks ago, they were at a career high of #6.  They won in three games, narrowly edging out the World Champions 21-19 in the decider.

“We made a lot of mistakes.  It made difficult for us to calm down,” Zheng Siwei (pictured bottom, with Huang Yaqiong) said after the match.  “Then we made mistakes again.  It became a bad routine.”

Christie comes around in Tokyo

The last match was men’s singles between Jonatan Christie (pictured right) from Indonesia and Anders Antonsen from Denmark.  Antonsen made good start, leading 6-2 in the opener, but Christie played with patience and caught the Dane with 4 consecutive points.  After that, the match went according to the Indonesian’s pace.  Christie stacked up his points and won the match in straight games.

Christie told Badzine after match, “I felt my opponent was playing well from the start so I tried to play patiently and gave him enough pressure.  Anyway, I’m happy to reach the semi-final in the Japan Open.

“Actually, I didn’t have a good feeling about the Japan Open.  This is my third time to play in this tournament.  I lost in the first round in the past 2 tournaments.  I came here last year soon after I got the title in the Asian Games.  Actually I didn’t want to come,” laughed Christie, who also played the qualifiers as a teenager back in 2015 and didn’t proceed to the main draw.

“But this time, I could make my feeling good.  It is important for me because this is the Olympic venue for next year.  All the players are really good players but I want to show people my good performance as long as possible.”

Click here for complete quarter-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