BUKIT JALIL: A fantastic showing by the men’s doubles shuttlers at the Korean Open last week, has raised Japan’s hope of putting in another strong challenge to the more fancied teams in the Thomas Cup Finals in New Delhi in May.
Last week, their world No. 6 Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa went down fighting 20-22, 20-22 to eventual champions Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen of Denmark in the semi-finals.
Their younger compatriots Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda, the world No. 15th, dumped second seeds Kim Ki-jung-Kim Sa-rang of South Korea in the opening round.
National coach Keita Masuda believes they have enough depth to challenge all the teams, including Malaysia at the Finals.
“Our senior and junior doubles players did well at the Korean Open and that augurs well ahead of the world team competition. We have strong men’s singles and doubles this time,” he said.
Japan also have another pair in the top 20 – world No. 14th Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata.
In the men’s singles, they have an impressive line-up – with four players in the top 25 – Kenichi Tago (5th), Takuma Euda (15th), Kento Momota (17th) and Sho Sasaki (25th).
“Kento is our 2012 world junior champion and he has shown vast improvement. He can be our strong third singles player.
“If our players can maintain their form until April, we may get a better seeding than Malaysia or Indonesia for the Finals,” said a beaming Masuda.
Currently, Malaysia and Indonesia have better depth in the doubles compared to the singles.
On their goal at the Finals, Masuda said: “We reached the semi-finals for the first time at the last Finals (in Wuhan in 2012 after beating Indonesia). We hope to stay in the top four.”
At Wuhan, Japan joined three others – China, South Korea and Denmark, in the semi-finals.
“Indonesia have shown a lot of progress since that defeat but I think, we are equal to Malaysia,” he added.
In the Malaysian Open starting Wednseday, Japan will be out to justify their renewed standing in the world as one of the forces in badminton.