Sports

Momota and Tai show badminton class

The semi-finals of the Singapore Badminton Open were tough encounters. But world No. 1s Kento Momota (JPN) and Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) showed their class and enhanced their reputations by moving into the finals.

Witnessed by a crowd of around 5,200 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, the fifth day of the tournament was filled with exhilarating matches, some of which decided  in rubber games, and epic comebacks.

Momota’s resounding victory

BWF world champion Momota (above) outclassed Viktor Axelsen (DEN) in their semi-final, beating the Great Dane 21-15, 21-18.

Momota trailed 6-16 in the second game, but made a resounding recovery to secure his spot in the men’s singles final.

“Of course it was bad that I could not win the second game. Kento played really well in the end and unfortunately I did not have what it takes today. I lost to a better opponent. In the second game, Kento managed to control his net play very well and my stamina was not good enough,” said Axelsen.

Said Momota: “In the first game I increased my speed. In the second, Viktor was always smashing and I could not return them well. He was likely thinking that it would go into a third game. Maybe Viktor’s focus was somewhere else, and that’s why I could come back.”

Momota will face Anthony Sinisuka Ginting (INA) in the final.

The Indonesian (above) continued his “giant killing” streak, beating the defending champion Chou Tien Chen (TPE) 21-17, 18-21, 21-14.

Chou found it difficult to cope with Ginting’s powerful smashes and lost the decider after an arduous one hour and 19 minute match.

The “Giant Killer” will be hoping to continue his streak in the final. “Of course I am very happy to have beaten Chen Long yesterday and Chou today, but it is not over yet. I do not want to think too much about my victory today,” said the Indonesian.

Tai’s incredible comeback

Fans were treated to another incredible comeback by world No. 1 and top seed Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) as shebattled back to beat Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) 15-21, 24-22, 21-19.

“Actually I felt more relaxed today as we just met last week at the final of the Malaysia Open. Both of us can play many matches in a day. I feel that today, towards the end, Akane made more mistakes,” said Tai (above).

Said Yamaguchi: “I made a few mistakes at some key points and I am not happy with some shots. At the end of the second game Tai had a ‘nothing to lose’ mentality and she started to play more aggressively and at a quicker pace,”

Tai will meet second seed Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) in the final.

Okuhara (below) beat Indian star Pusarla V. Sindhu 21-7, 21-11 in the other semi-final.

PHOTOS: SINGAPORE BADMINTON OPEN

When asked about facing Tai in the final, an excited Okuhara said: “Yes. Because I haven’t played against her in a long time, so I’m really looking forward to playing her. She’s very speedy and all-rounded, so it will be very difficult, but I will try.”

Japan-Korea women’s doubles final

In a rematch of the BWF World Championship final last year, two Japanese teams clashed in the women’s doubles first semi-final.

World No. 1 Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota lost to reigning world champions and compatriots Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara (below) 21-18, 21-17.

Matsumoto said: “I do not think that they did badly, but this time our attacking strategy worked well. I am glad that we won, particularly we won in two straight games.”

Matsumoto and Nagahara will face South Korean duo Kim Hye Jeong and Kong Hee Yong, who won their match against China’s Liu Xuanxuan and Xia Yuting 21-15, 21-15.

Top-ranked duo upset in men’s doubles

One of the upsets of the day came when Japan’s Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda (below) toppled the top ranked men’s doubles team of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) 13-21, 21-10, 21-19.

“We are very happy we won against the world No. 1s and it has given us more confidence. Especially under these conditions with draught in the stadium, it is a very good start for us beating the world No. 1s. The quality of their shots and everything is very strong, so it is a good start for us in the Olympic qualifying race,” said Kamura.

The Japanese pair are set to challenge the defending champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan (INA) in the final. Ahsan and Setiawan beat second seed Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen from China 21-11, 21-14.

World champions lose in mixed doubles

In another major surprise, Thailand’s Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai upset world champions and tournament favourites Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong (CHN) 24-22, 21-19 in te mixed doubles semi-final.

“We just had fun and played our best. We did not think about the last few matches with them, we focused on today. We did not put pressure on ourselves and we focused on every point,” said Taerattanachai after beating the Chinese for the first time in seven encounters.

Speaking after their first defeat of the year, Huang said: “Our opponents were pretty good today, and our return of serve was inadequate. It wasn’t difficult, but both of us made more mistakes as compared to our opponents. Today’s loss serves as a good reminder for us to do more preparation for the upcoming Sudirman Cup.”

The other mixed doubles semi-final saw the Malaysian pair Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing (below) snatch a win against Indonesia’s Hafiz Faizal and Gloria Emanuelle Widjaja.

Faizal and Widjaja were leading 20-18 in the last game. However, a series of errors ultimately caused
them to lose 21-16, 20-22, 22-20.

“At that point in time, we did not think much, we just kept focused, point by point. We really wanted to win very badly, so we never gave up,” said Lai when asked how they turned it around at the end.

Tan and Lai will meet Puavaranukroh and Taerattanachai in the final.

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