Birmingham: After winning the first game 21-14, the unseeded Yuki Kaneko/Misaki Matsutomo of Japan were trailing 4-16 in the second set against No. 3 seeds Chan Peng Soon/Goh Liu Ying of Malaysia in the All England mixed doubles semi-finals. When everybody was expecting a third-set, Kaneko/Matsutomo were about to start a miracle run.
All of the sudden, Chan/Goh looked clueless and suffered a stunning collapse on the court, while Matsutomo was playing better at the net, and her partner Kaneko also found his powerful smash to keep attacking his Malaysian opponents. The Japanese slowly fought back to tie the score at 19-19, 20-20, before clinching the second set 22-20.
Kaneko/Matsumoto will play teammates and No. 2 seeds Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino in the final. Watanabe/Higashino knocked out No. 4 seeds Marcus Ellis/Lauren Smith of England 21-10, 21-18 on Saturday.
It’s no doubt this was a devastating loss to the Malaysian pair, but watching the whole match, the Malaysian players really have to work on their stamina, speed, concentration, be more quick and stable at the net and attacks. Only relying on their experience and skills was obviously not enough to compete at the highest level of badminton nowadays.
Furthermore, several existing Malaysian badminton players (both BAM and independent players) who are competing in international tournaments looked overweight compared to other top badminton athletes from other countries. In a sport that required changing the direction and position of the body quickly and effectively while under control, it’s strange that they and their organization are not paying attention to the physical condition of these athletes.
In women’s doubles, No. 1 seeds Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota of Japan eased past Selena Piek/Cheryl Seinen of Netherlands 21-17, 21-7 to set up an all Japanese final with compatriots and No. 2 seeds Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara.
Matsumoto/Nagahara, on the other hand, defeated teammates No. 5 seeds Nami Matsuyama/Chiharu Shida 21-19, 21-17 in another semi-final.
In a women’s singles epic semi-final clash between No. 2 seed Nozomi Okuhara of Japan and No. 4 seed Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand, Okuhara simply refused to be beaten when she was down 8-14, 14-18 in the decider. Holding her nerve as she outlasted Intanon 21-16, 16-21, 19-21 in 71 minutes and moved one match away from her second All England title. Okuhara won the 2016 title by defeating Wang Shixian of China 21-11, 21-16, 21-19.
Okuhara will take on another Thai player, No. 6 seed Pornpawee Chochuwong in the final. Chochuwong overcame No. 5 seed PV Sindhu of India 21-17, 21-9 to reach the final.