DAY 5 WRAP – Japan dominates finals line-up

Japan will field two singles players and two doubles combinations in tomorrow’s Australian Badminton Open finals, more than any other country. Their successes on court today were among many exciting games setting up a thrilling day of finals.

Men’s Singles

Srikanth Kidambi’s dream run at the Australia SuperSeries continued today when he easily defeated China’s Shi Yuqi, ranked fourth in the world.

Kidambi took out the first set 21-10 and the second 21-14, sending him to his third consecutive SuperSeries final.

“I am coming back,” Kidambi of India said. “I have played the Singapore finals after two years. And to play the next two then it is a kind of dream for me for sure.

“I was in control of the whole thing and given easy points in the start. I really wanted to stay there. He [Shi Yuqi] is someone who wants to keep the shuttle and not go for the hard strokes so I just wanted to stay in there and not give him easy points.”

In the other men’s semi-final, China’s Chen Long had his work cut out for him, being pushed to 26-24 in the first game against Korea’s Lee Hyun II.

The Olympic Champion then went on to concede the second set 15-21 before recovering for a definitive win in the third (21-17).

“In the first game I got a good score in the beginning and I got a little relaxed,” Chen said. “But my opponent played very hard so it became a hard game. In the last two games I played normally and that helped me win.

“I hope that tomorrow there will be a big audience so I can play more excitedly and give them a better performance.”

Women’s Singles

Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi had a big win over world number one Tai Tzu Ying to make her first SuperSeries final of the year.

The 20-year-old who was a quarter-finalist at the 2016 Olympic Games, took the first set from Tai, 21-19. She then launched a relentless attack in the second set, dominating the court to take it out 21-12.

The pair met back in April at the Badminton Asia Championships where Tai was the victor in three games, but it was Yamaguchi’s time to shine today.

It will be an all-Japanese final, after Nozomi Okuhara closed out her three-game match over China’s Sun Yu (21-18 18-21 21-14).

Okuhara, the 2016 Olympic bronze medallist, said she was looking for redemption this week after not playing to her potential at the Indonesia Open because of illness.

“I really wanted to win, to show that the quality of the Japanese women’s singles players is increasing and that we are stronger on the international stage now,” she said. “It was important to me to win today.”

Men’s Doubles

Japan secured another finals berth with the men’s doubles pairing of Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda winning their semi-final over Chinese Taipei’s Lu Ching Yao and Yang Po Han.

The Japanese looked strong all throughout their two-set match, winning comfortably in 21-15 21-15.

They will face the combination of Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia and Boon Heong Tan of Malaysia, a mixed nation pair who have been training hard as professional players away from their national teams.

They defeated Liu Cheng and Zhang Nan of China in three sets – 21-15 14-21 21-17.

“Tomorrow is the last step so I think we will really just go for it,” Tan said.

Women’s Doubles

The Danish women’s doubles pair of Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen enjoyed a challenging win over Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota of Japan to secure their finals berth.

The Olympic silver medallists were strong in the opening game and looked to take out the match in the second, before losing three match-points and the game to the Japanese pair.

“The second set was tough to lose,” Pedersen said. “Losing after three match points is hard. In the interval we talked about letting it go and being ready for the third and I think we managed that really, really well.”

The final set provided some unbelievable rallies with strong Danish attack and impressive Japanese defense, but in the end it was Rytter Juhl and Pedersen who won the day (21-16 20-22 21-18).

“We talked about really going onto court in the third with a lot of energy to show the Japanese that they were not on top even though they won the second set - so we really had to show that both mentally and with our body language,” Pedersen said.

“I think the crowd likes our style of play - we never give up in any rally, we always want to win it. It was a great match and great to have the crowd behind us.”

The Danes will face Misaki Matsumoto and Ayaka Takahashi of Japan, after they had a resounding win in their semi-final against Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China (21-17 21-17).

Mixed Doubles

The first mixed doubles encounter of the semi-finals was an all-Chinese affair with the number one seeded pair Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen defeating Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping in a tight three-set battle. Zheng and Chen eventually emerged victorious after a point-for-point final game, winning 21-13 19-21 23-21.

“We never thought that this game would be easy,” Zheng said. “In the first game first we were left behind and then we worked hard to catch up with the points. We prepared a lot before the match so that is why we were not frightened off at the match point.”

After being runners up at the Indonesia SuperSeries last week, the Chinese pair will be looking to go one better in tomorrow’s final.

They will face Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto after their convincing win over Korea’s Kim Dukyoung and Kim Ha Na (21-19 21-16).

Competition continues tomorrow, Sunday 25 June, with the finals. For all the schedule, draw and results, go to: http://www.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/tournament.aspx?id=F0D1C54B-EF2E-4ED7-8E0F-2139EF1FB98E