JAPAN will enter today’s must-win World Junior Badminton Championships Group Z tie against Malaysia in bullish mood.
The Japanese shuttlers put on a convincing performance in the 5-0 drubbing of Singapore yesterday without dropping a single game.
Now, they have set their sights on overcoming the second-seeded Malaysians and clinch the semi-final ticket from the group.
It will be a repeat of the Asian junior semi-final clash in July, which Malaysia won 3-1.
But Japan’s junior coach Rionny Mainaky, the brother of national doubles coach Rexy, is predicting a much closer battle today.
“Japan were nervous and felt intimidated by the home crowd during the Asian meet (in Kuala Lumpur) as it was the players’ first experience in a high-pressure atmospere.
“They have learnt their lessons, and will not be overawed easily in Alor Setar.
“We also studied the strengths and weaknesses of the Malaysians during that semi-final match. Malaysia are the favourites, but Japan can create an upset if the players can get their strategies right on the court,” said Rionny yesterday.
Against Malaysia, Japan will be banking on two points from the girls’ singles and doubles ties from Minatsu Mitani and Sayaka Takahashi-Naoko Fukuman respectively.
They are also hoping to squeeze out another point from one of the remaining three ties to exact sweet revenge over Malaysia.
During the Asian meet, Japan’s solitary point was won by Minatsu, who beat Tee Jing Yi 21-17, 12-21, 21-17.
Minatsu got off to a roaring start yesterday, defeating Singapore’s Chen Jiayuan 21-14, 21-16.
Earlier, mixed doubles pair Naoto Otaki-Kanako Konishi beat Jeffrey Wong-Thng Ting Ting 21-13, 21-15 and Tatsuya Watanabe overcame Koh Jia Yi 21-16, 21-11 to hand Japan a 2-0 lead.
Singapore’s misery was completed when Shohei Hoshino-Akira Kobayashi defeated Jeffrey Wong-Tan Kia Hwee 21-9, 21-16 and Sayaka-Naoko edged Ting Ting-Jiayuan 26-24, 22-20 in the boys’ and girls’ doubles respectively.
Japan are expected to maintain almost the same line-up for the Malaysia tie, with only Tatsuya’s place still undecided for the boys’ singles slot.
The Japanese coaches are not fully convinced of the shuttler’s ability to take on Malaysia’s top junior Iskandar Zulkarnain, who easily won 21-9, 21-14 when the two met in the Asian meet.
Said Rionny: “We have several options for the boys’ singles slot, and will leave it late before deciding on the best option.”
If Japan choose to bench the top-ranked Tatsuya, they can call upon the services of either Shohei Hoshino, Hiroki Takeuchi or Kento Momota.
Group W: China bt Macau 5-0, Indonesia bt New Zealand 5-0, Russia bt Macau 5-0, Indonesia bt Russia 5-0, China bt New Zealand 5-0.
Group X1: Thailand bt Vietnam 4-1, Vietnam bt Germany 4-1, Thailand bt Germany 5-0.
Group X2: Hong Kong bt Sri Lanka 5-0, Denmark bt Sri Lanka 5-0, Hong Kong bt Denmark 3-2.
Group Y1: India bt Philippines 3- 2, Philippines bt Canada 4-1, India bt Canada 4-1.
Group Y2: Taiwan bt Australia 5-0, England vs Australia 5-0, Taiwan bt England 3-2.
Group Z: Malaysia w.o. Cambodia 5- 0, Japan bt Singapore 5-0, France w.o. Cambodia 5-0, Japan bt Malaysia bt Singapore 4-1 (Chooi Kah Ming-Ng Hui Ern bt Wong Hao Cong-Thng Ting Ting 21-10, 21-13; Iskandar Zulkarnain bt Koh Jia Yi 21-11, 21-10; Tee Jing Yi bt Chen Jiayuan 21-18, 21-6; Ow Yao Han-Pang Zheng Lin bt Jeffrey Wong-Koh Jia Yi 21- 11, 21-17; Lai Pei Jing-Ng Hui Ern lost to Thng Ting Ting-Chen Jiayuan 19-21, 21-16, 24-26).
9am: China vs Russia (W), Indonesia vs Macau (W), Malaysia vs France (Z), Japan vs Cambodia (Z), Germany vs Sri Lanka (X), Canada vs Australia (Y).
2pm: New Zealand vs Macau (W), Vietnam vs Denmark (X), Philippines vs England (Y).
6pm: China vs Indonesia (W), Russia vs New Zealand (W), Malaysia vs Japan (Z), France vs Singapore (Z), Thailand vs Hong Kong (X), India vs Taiwan (Y).