Ho Chi Minh: Japan enjoyed one of its best days in badminton history on Saturday as they sensationally knocked out powerhouse China 3-1 in the 2017 Asia Mixed Team Championships semi-finals.
Arisa Higashino/Yuta Watanabe produced a spirited fight against the formidable Zhang Nan/Chen Qingchen duo of China in the first match of the tie. The Japanese pair held a 20-17 lead in the first set, but allowed Zhang/Chen to rally from behind to clinch the first set 22-20. Zhang/Chen went on to claim the second set 21-19 to give China a 1-0 advantage.
In the men’s singles match that followed, Kenta Nishimoto lost the first set 10-21 to Shi Yuqi of China. However, Shi paid the price of underestimating Kenta Nishimoto, letting the Japanese to force the decider by winning the second set 21-19. Nishimoto gained a lot of momentum in the third set, beating Shi in the decider 21-19 to level the overall score at 1-1.
World No. 3 men’s doubles pair Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda took the court next but was made to work before overcoming Li Junhui/Zheng Siwei of China 21-16, 16-21, 21-16 to give Japan a 2-1 advantage.
“We had defeated the Japanese pair in last year’s Thomas Cup, so the coaching staff decided to split up Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen and paired Li Junhui with me. Since we do not play together in regular basis, he and I lacked a lot of mutual understanding,” said Zhang Siwei.
It was left to 19-year-old Akane Yamaguchi to seal the tie for Japan and she did not disappoint. Yamaguchi’s court coverage was exceptional and Chen Yufei of China simply has no answer to Yamaguchi’s ruthless defense. The Japanese effortlessly beat the Chinese 21-15, 21-10 to help Japan advance to the final.
Japan is set to play against Korea in the 2017 Asia Mixed Team Championships final on Sunday.