Thursday, May 22, 2014
Text by Dev Sukumar
Japan enjoyed a fruitful afternoon session as their men and women entered the semi-finals of the Li-Ning BWF Thomas & Uber Cup Finals today.
While the Japanese Thomas Cup team eased past France 3-1, the Uber Cup squad beat Denmark 3-0. In the other ties, defending Thomas Cup champions China brushed past Thailand 3-0 and past Uber Cup winners Korea endured some anxious moments before getting past Thailand 3-1.
After his brilliant victory over Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen yesterday, Japan’s lead singles player Kenichi Tago would have been expected to have it easy against Brice Leverdez (right) of France. However, the Frenchman too was been in spectacular form in both singles and doubles in the group stage and was one of the principal architects of France’s maiden place in the quarter-finals.
Leverdez started off strongly once more and was able to contain Tago’s explosive game with his sharp defensive game. Despite a mid-match revival by the Japanese, Leverdez maintained his consistency to finish a winner at 21-14 15-21 21-16.
France could not consolidate any further as Japan’s depth in both singles and doubles proved too much of a task. Sho Sasaki accounted for Lucas Corvee, while Keigo Sonoda/Takeshi Kamura blazed their way past Bastian Kersaudy/Gaetan Mittelheisser 21-8 21-13. Takuma Ueda, who had won a crucial last match against Denmark late yesterday, closed the issue in Japan’s favour by beating giant-killer Thomas Rouxel 21-13 21-12.
“I’m very happy with the team’s performance,” said French coach Zhou Junling. “We made the quarter-finals beating Chinese Taipei and Russia and this will encourage younger players back home. Our young players performed excellently under pressure.”
Japan’s women emulated the performance of their men’s team in making the semi-finals over their group compatriots Denmark. Minatsu Mitani triumphed in a contest of see-sawing fortunes against Line Kjaersfeldt. The match changed complexion every few moments in the final game, with Mitani closing out a deficit and getting ahead 20-15, only for Kjaersfeldt to save five match points and earn one of her own. The experienced Japanese however nixed the Dane’s comeback and sealed the contest 21-18 9-21 23-21.
Denmark’s hopes were pinned on world No.3 Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter-Juhl, but the world No.3 pair fell to their second straight loss to Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi. The Japanese duo’s win today was even more authoritative than their previous victory yesterday as it took just 37 minutes: 21-12 21-13.
It was left to young Anna Thea Madsen, runner-up at the European Championships, to salvage the contest for Denmark. Madsen attempted a valiant charge at Sayaka Takahashi (featured image), but the Japanese left-hander had the bigger weapons on the day and confirmed Japan’s semi-final place with a 21-14 21-17 result.
* China’s Thomas Cup team continued their march without losing a single contest. It was Thailand’s turn to feel the heat. Neither Boonsak Ponsana, nor the doubles pair of Maneepong Jongjit/Nipitphon Puangpuapech, could run Chen Long or Chai Biao/Hong Wei (above) close. Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk gave Du Pengyu something to think about in the late stages of the second game but could not prevent the Chinese from winning 21-14 22-20.
* Thailand were a handful for Korea, but the fielding of a scratch pair in the second doubles worked against them. Ratchanok Intanon gave the Thais the lead beating Sung Ji Hyun 21-15 21-15. Jang Ye Na/Kim So Young in the doubles and Bae Yeon Ju in the second singles swung the tie Korea’s way, with Bae having to dig deep to counter Nichaon Jindapon. Thailand fielded Porntip Buranaprasertsuk and Puttita Supajirakul in the second doubles against Kim Ha Na/Jung Kyung Eun (above); the No.8 Koreans shut the door on the Thais with a 21-10 21-19 victory.
For today’s results, click here.