It’s Japan’s Day! – Doubles Finals: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017

Japan enjoyed heady success at the CROWN GROUP Australian Open, clinching two doubles titles in addition to the Women’s Singles crown.

Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi and Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda made it three out of three for Japan; both Japanese doubles pairs won their first World Superseries title of the year after Nozomi Okuhara had earlier won the all-Japanese Women’s Singles final. Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen won the Mixed Doubles for China.

The Women’s Doubles final saw Matsutomo and Takahashi overwhelm Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl 21-10 21-13.

Whether it was the strain of their long semi-final, or the fact that their Japanese opponents were just that much sharper in the final, the Danes were shut out in the opening phase of play and couldn’t find a way back. Both Pedersen and Rytter Juhl struggled to stay in the rallies, and with Matsutomo and Takahashi defending with solidity and picking off winners at will, it was mostly a one-sided contest.

Rytter Juhl was all praise for their opponents: “Today they were better than us in all aspects. Physical, mentally; they moved well, they could see what was happening faster than us. There was not much to do today.

“We’ve been using a lot of energy the last two matches. We started here with me lying in bed for two days as I was ill, but to be in the final is really awesome. We had to be more than 100 percent to beat the Japanese today.”

“I’m not sure we could’ve won today even if we won in two sets yesterday,” added Pedersen. “But to play extra 30 minutes hard fight yesterday, we used a lot of energy, but I know it would still have been difficult for us today.”

Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda too had things pretty much under control for most of the Men’s Doubles final against Tan Boon Heong (Malaysia) and Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia). The second game was closer than the first, but at the death, it was the Japanese who grabbed the first chance at attack, and the title was won on the 37th minute: 21-17 21-19.

“We didn’t expect to win this one, so that is why we feel so happy about today,” said Kamura.

“As this tournament is just before the World Championships, we now need to seriously think about how to compete there. It’s great that Japan won three titles here – our level has been improving, which makes us feel really happy and we have a lot of young people in our team. We work hard to respond to the expectations and dreams of our people.”

Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto let slip a handy lead in the final game of their Mixed Doubles final against Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen, and the Chinese pounced on the opportunity to claim their second Superseries crown this year.

The Indonesians were looking totally assured in the final game, with Susanto defending brilliantly and Jordan easing the shuttle into vacant spaces as they worked up a 10-3 lead.

Chen’s astute serving at this point helped the Chinese climb back out of the hole they were in; the Indonesians didn’t do themselves any favours with a few return errors, and suddenly the Chinese had the bounce back in their step. Zheng’s sizzling smashes once again started to punch holes in the Indonesians’ defence, and the final point was won on the 58th minute: 18-21 21-14 21-17.

“There were a lot of ups and downs in this match,” reflected Zheng. “In the first game we were leading and they caught up. In the third game we were behind 1-9 but then we managed to catch up. So it would help us a lot to reflect why we were able to catch up and why we were caught up.

“To lose one game is normal and we expected it before the match, however even though we lost the first game and during the third game our points were way behind, we didn’t want to give up and we believed that we could catch up.

“We need to adjust our mentality and I was always the more anxious one. We need to change that.”

Tan/Setiawan in Title Bout – Day 5: CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017

Tan Boon Heong and Hendra Setiawan achieved a rare feat on Saturday at the CROWN GROUP Australian Open 2017, becoming one of the few trans-national partnerships in a World Superseries final.

The Malaysian and the Indonesian, partners since January this year, showed glimpses of their heyday as they stormed past China’s Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan 21-15 14-21 21-17. They became the first trans-national pair in a Superseries final since Setiwan himself combined with Russia’s Anastasia Russikh to reach the Indonesia Open final in 2010.

With Setiawan in his customary role making sharp interceptions at the net, and Tan unleashing big lefty smashes, the Indonesian-Malaysian combo got off to a strong start and found their way back after losing the second game. It was a Tan Boon Heong special – a 391 kph smash – that set up four match points at 20-16, and it was converted on the second opportunity.

“It’s good that pairs like ours can reach the final of a Superseries – I hope the national teams allow players (to pair up),” said Tan. “I can’t remember the last time I reached a Superseries final. We have been training well together and we hope we can fight it out well tomorrow.”

Tan and Setiawan will have to get past Japan’s Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda. The Japanese ended the run of giant-killers Lu Ching Yao/Yang Po Han (Chinese Taipei) 21-15 21-15.

Japan’s having assured themselves of the Women’s Singles crown, have a shot at the Men’s Doubles and the Women’s Doubles. Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi reversed their recent run of losses to Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan, getting the better of the Chinese today in surprisingly easy fashion: 21-17 21-11.

The Women’s Doubles final will see Matsutomo/Takahashi face Denmark’s Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl. The Danes shook off the disappointment of a blown second game to fight their way past Japan’s Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota and make their third World Superseries final this year.

The Danes, who hadn’t lost a game in three previous matches to the Japanese, missed three match points to let their opponents into the contest and make it a sticky affair for them in the third. From 15-all, however, the experienced Danes were able to sting up a sequence of points that gave them the match at 21-16 20-22 21-18.

“The second set was tough to lose,” said Rytter Juhl. “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 well.

“We talked about going onto court in to the third with a lot of energy to show the Japanese that they are not on top even though they won the second set. So we really had to show that both mentally and with our body language. It was important for us to have a good lead because we had a little bit of difficulty playing on one side. It was a great match and great to have the crowd behind us.”

Olympic champion Chen Long gave himself a shot at his first Superseries title this year, struggling to combat the finesse of Korean veteran Lee Hyun Il, but coming away victor in 68 minutes: 26-24 15-21 21-17.

Lee played with the demeanor and control of a monk, pinning Chen to the lines and keeping things tight until he chose his moment to attack. Unusually for Chen, even his airtight defence was frequently blown as he struggled to read the lines of Lee’s attack. The Korean dominated the Olympic champion but failed to convert any of four game points in the opener; unruffled, he took the second and had his chances in the third until a late surge by Chen left him with too wide a gulf to conquer.

“I wasn’t perturbed at missing four game points in the opening game as I’d come in prepared to play a long match,” said Lee. “I’m quite satisfied with my performance this tournament. I feel lesser pressure now as an independent player, that’s why my performances have improved in recent times.”

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Top Seeds Tumble – Day 3: BCA Indonesia Open 2017

The wretched fortunes of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi took another twist this morning as the top seeds and defending Women’s Doubles champions were felled in the first round of the BCA Indonesia Open 2017.

In the day’s opening fixture, the Japanese – whose best result on tour this season has been runners-up in Singapore – were knocked out of the Superseries Premier event by Huang Yaqiong and Yu Xiaohan, 21-7 22-20. The Chinese grabbed control of the match in the first game and, though the points were closer in the second, dug in at the critical moments to ensure they took the honours at Jakarta Convention Center.

Once again, Matsutomo and Takahashi were left pondering how their results have plummeted compared to a year ago when they were Olympic champions and winners of five Superseries events, including Superseries Premiers in England, Indonesia and Denmark. While three other Japanese pairs romped into the second round, they were at pains to explain what happened, conceding they made a lot of errors and that, right now, their best is simply not good enough.

On the adjoining court, a similar fate was unfolding for Men’s Doubles top seeds and one of Indonesia’s prime hopes for a title at this tournament, Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon. The star pairing, winners of three Superseries already this year, cut a picture of shell-shocked dejection as they trudged from the court while Denmark’s Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (featured image) celebrated victory, 21-16 21-16 in 34 minutes.

“We played one of our best matches ever. Kevin and Marcus are a world-class pair. We knew we would have to step up our game and control the match and also have good defence,” said Rasmussen, adding that shifting drift in the arena heightened their challenge.

“We wanted to defend our semi-final points from last year but we got a tough draw so we just focused on this match.”

The vanquished Sukamuljo and Gideon acknowledged “we were not on top of our game” and Sukamuljo revealed a recent shoulder injury hampered his shot-making.

“I got injured in training last week and every time I tried to smash I felt pain,” he told media.

Though buoyed by this result, Danish fans were stunned in the evening by the demise of No.7 seeds, Mad Conrad-Petersen and Mads Pieler Kolding, who seemed to have command of their match with a 19-15 lead in the decider, only to perish in the end. The outcome was even a surprise to winners Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov; the latter bluntly stating “We don’t know how we made that comeback”.

The Russians had pulled away at 12-12 to win the opener to which their rivals answered emphatically by leading the second game from the outset and yielding only ten points. The Danes continued in that authoritative vein in the decider, speeding ahead 7-0 and maintaining a good buffer at 17-12. However, Ivanov and Sozonov began to narrow the gap, with a 7-2 run levelling matters 19-19 before the Danes earned match point. It was not to be though as the next three points went Russia’s way, ushering them into the second round: 21-16 10-21 22-20 in 57 minutes.

Denmark’s disappointment was tempered by the progression of two of its other Men’s Doubles pairs (Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen and Mathias Christiansen/David Daugaard). China’s Liu Cheng/Zhang Nan, Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen, and Chai Biao/Hong Wei, all advanced though their compatriots, Lu Kai/Zheng Siwei were sidelined due to Lu being injured. Thailand’s Bodin Isara/Nipitphon Phuangphuapet and Kittinupong Kedren/Dechapol Puavaranukroh are also into the second round while hosts, Indonesia, have three pairs to fight their cause (Ricky Karanda Suwardi/Angga Pratama; Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto; and Hendra Aprida Gunawan/Markis Kido). Another Indonesian son, Hendra Setiawan and his Malaysian partner, Tan Boon Heong, survived a dramatic test by Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Yuta Watanabe.

Apart from the top seeds’ departure, Women’s Doubles suffered no other upheaval with the remaining seeds advancing. China’s No.7 seeds (Huang Dongping/Li Yinhui) withdrew yesterday due to Li’s back injury. One of the category’s most exciting encounters today was the clash between Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu of Indonesia and Korea’s Chae Yoo Jung/Kim So Yeong. The local pair earned a hard-fought 15-21 25-23 21-14 win.

“We weren’t settled in the first game but we were determined not to lose. Thank God we won the second game and eventually the match. The drift made the shuttle difficult to control so we had to be patient and not rush to beat our opponents,” said Polii.

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