Wednesday, May 18, 2016
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Japan nearly succumbed to a spirited Indian team in the final Group D tie of the Uber Cup, but the second seeds scrambled home by a narrow margin today at the TOTAL BWF Thomas & Uber Finals 2016 today.
Meanwhile, Hong Kong ensured their quarter-finals place beating Thailand, qualifying for the knock-out rounds in second place behind Indonesia in Group B.
Hong Kong’s three singles playes – Ng Ka Long, Hu Yun and Wei Nan – delivered. All three won their matches in straight games against a Thailand team that went down without a fight.
The only point for Thailand was the second doubles – Tinn Isriyanate/Nipitphon Puangpuapech getting past Chan Tsz Kit/Law Cheuk Him 21-15 21-18.
Japan were in danger of some embarrassment against an Indian team that went in with two scratch doubles combinations. Japan spearhead Nozomi Okuhara saw her first game lead against Saina Nehwal evaporate; the Indian then lost just six points in the second game.
“I’m really surprised to have won so quickly,” said Nehwal. “She was catching me on my forehand side in the first game, so I didn’t give her many opportunities in the second. There were a couple of points when I had to change the rhythm of the rally, like using the fast clear and so on. But you can’t do it every time, you have to do it according to the situation.”
“I was very nervous,” admitted Okuhara. “I was a bit defensive in the first game, that’s not good for me. In the second game, the wind was against me, and I had trouble adjusting. I just couldn’t control it.”
With PV Sindhu dismantling the challenge of Akane Yamaguchi 21-11 21-18, Japan were with their backs to the wall.
However, Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi rescued them, beating Sikki Reddy/Jwala Gutta easily; Sayaka Sato (featured image) made it 2-2 in the third singles over Ruthvika Shivani.
PV Sindhu returned with Ashwini Ponnappa and the two nearly took the wind out of Japan’s sails. The two big hitters had Shizuka Matsuo/Mami Naito under constant attack; it needed all of the Japanese pair’s experience to eventually edge ahead of them at the death: 15-21 21-19 21-16.
India’s men however were no match for Indonesia in their final Group B tie, losing 5-0. In Uber Cup Group B, Korea outplayed Chinese Taipei 4-1.