KUALA LUMPUR: One followed the script. The other tore it apart.
And Malaysia and Japan have set up an intriguing semi-final clash today in the mixed team competition of the Asian junior badminton championships after winning their quarter-final ties in contrasting fashions at the Juara Stadium in Bukit Kiara here yesterday.
Third seeds Malaysia lived up to the expectations and defeated Hong Kong 3-0 to advance.
The three points came from the mixed pair of Ow Yao Han-Lai Pei Jing and singles shuttlers Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin and Tee Jing Yee. All of them took less than 30 minutes to win their matches.
But the attention was on the adjacent court and Japan trooped out as the surprise winners, beating fancied South Korea 3-1 to reach the semi-finals for the first time.
It appeared that the tie would go according to the form books when the Japanese mixed doubles pair of Otaki Naoto-Konishi Kanako were beaten 12-21, 16-21 by Kang Ji-wook-Choy Hye-in.
But Watanabe Tatsuya levelled the tie, taking only 28 minutes to beat Kim Min-ki 21-10, 21-13 in the boys’ singles match.
Then a fired up Mitani Minatsu and Hoshino Shohei-Kobayashi Akira kept the momentum going by sealing the tie with sensational wins over Choy Hye-in and Kang Ji-wook-Choi Seung-il in the girls’ singles and boys’ doubles matches respectively.
Japan will probably be pleased with their decision to again hire Rionny Frederick Mainaky as their junior coach. Rionny is the elder brother of Malaysia’s doubles chief coach, Rexy.
“I left Indonesia to coach Japan almost a decade ago. But returned home for five years before I was recalled by Japan last year,” said Rionny.
“Reaching the semi-finals for the first time by beating South Korea is a big achievement here. I am proud of the players. They kept up the fight from the start.”
Malaysia’s junior squad chief coach Sun Chenhua said that they would have to do a quick analysis of the Japanese team before deciding on their line-up for the semi-final tie.
“We had expected to take on South Korea. But Japan came through and we have to study their strength. “Both teams have the chance to make the final. It all depends on who can take their chances well tomorrow,” he said.
Chenhua, however, hoped that his players would play with confidence.
“Iskandar is not at his best yet in this tournament. I have seen him play with better speed in training. I think, he is putting unnecessary pressure on himself,” he said.
“I hope the other players will also be more confident of themselves. I know that they all want to do well but they should learn to enjoy the game and not piled up too much pressure on themselves.”
Malaysia last won the mixed team title in 2007.