Battling India bow to Japan

Battling India bow to Japan

Badminton Thomas and Uber Cup

Battling India bow to Japan

Hosts suffer heart-breaking 2-3 defeat; Japanese men end China’s winning run

India were left to content with a bronze medal after the home side suffered a 2-3 defeat against Japan in the quarterfinals of the Uber Cup at the Siri Fort Sports Complex on Friday.

Indian dhols beats reached a crescendo and the boisterous crowd cheered their hearts out till late in the night but couldn’t inspire the hosts to victory. It was, nevertheless, a superb performance by the Indian women who had made it to their maiden semifinals on Thursday, beating quality teams like Thailand and Indonesia on way.

They could not have been faulted for fancying their chances of even reaching the final after Saina Nehwal and PV Sindhu put them 2-0 up. Saina eased past Mimatsu Mitani 21-12, 21-13 and PV Sindhu pulled off another cliffhanger, this time against Sayaka Takahashi,  19-21, 21-18, 26-24 to make it 2-0 for India.

But Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa, who have admirably punched above their weight in this tournament, fumbled against the World No 4 Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi 12-21, 22-20, 16-21. India had virtually lost the tie at this point.

“I couldn’t support Ashwini well. She was superb at the back, but I was very scratchy,” admitted Jwala.

PC Thulasi lost to experienced Eriko Hirose 14-21, 15-21 in the third singles to push the tie to the fifth and deciding rubber. Saina and Sindhu, combining for doubles only for the second time, did their best but were found wanting against World No 5 pair of Miyuki Maeda and Reika Kakiiwa, losing 14-21, 11-21. “It was always going to be difficult after our first doubles loss,” said Saina.

With the victory, Japanese woman join their men’s team in the final. Japanese men shocked China 3-0 in the Thomas Cup to make it to their maiden final, where they meet Lee Chong Wei-led Malaysia on Sunday. In the Uber Cup final on Saturday, Japan take on China, who beat Indonesia 3-0.

It needed Saina 41 minutes to give India the winning start yet again. World No 12 Mitani had a compact game and controlled the long rallies by cleverly mixing the pace. Saina, thus, kept the points short and went for the kill at the first opportunity. It worked as she comfortably closed the match when Mitani’s smash crashed on the net.

Sindhu, however, found herself ill at ease against the talented Takahashi, an opponent ranked two rungs below her at 13. The light-footed Japanese produced such teasing angles and deceptive strokes that Sindhu often found herself stranded. Her forehand crosscourt drops were just too hot to handle. The Indian was error-prone and struggled to gauge her returns but hung on tenaciously.

The Indian rallied to make it a game all. In a see-saw decider, she opened up 17-13 lead but the Japanese caught up with her by winning four points in a row and soon held a match point at 20-19. Sindhu saved it and went on to hold four match points before sealing the victory on the fifth.

Meanwhile, the afternoon session sprang the biggest surprise of the tournament. Nineteen-year-old Kento Momoto emerged the hero as Japan snapped the five-year winning streak of China in Thomas Cup.  

Momoto beat World No 6 Du Pengyu 23-25, 21-18, 21-14 in 75 minutes to rustle up the winning point for Japan. Kenichi Tago, attacking with persistence, led the way for Japan by pulling off a 21-13, 21-11 shock win over World No 2 Chen Long. Japanese pair of Kenichi Hayakawa and Hiroyuki Endo further piled misery on the defending champions when they beat Biao Chai and Wei Hong 22-20, 21-19.

Results (semifinals): Thomas Cup: Japan bt China 3-0 (Kenichi Tago bt Chen Long 21-13, 21-11; Kenichi Hayakawa/ Hiroyuki Endo bt Biao Chai/ Wei Hong 22-20, 21-19; Kento Momoto bt Du Pengyu 23-25, 21-18, 21-14).

Malaysia bt Indonesia 3-0 (Lee Chong Wei bt Tommy Sugiarto 21-19, 21-13; Boon Heong Tan/ Thien How Hoon bt Mohammad Ahsan/ Hendra Setiawan 21-19, 8-21, 23-21; Wei Feng Chong bt Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka 21-10, 21-17).

Uber Cup: China bt Korea 3-0 (Li Xuerui bt Ji Hyun Sung 21-11, 21-9; Yixin Bao/ Jinhua Tang bt Ye Na Jang/ So Young Kim 21-11, 21-12; Wang Shixian bt Yeon Ju Bae 21-13, 16-21, 21-10).

Japan bt India 3-2 (Minatsu Mitani lt to Saina Nehwal bt 12-21, 13-21; Sayaka Takahashi lt to PV Sindhu 21-19,18-21, 24-26; Misaki Matsutomo/ Ayaka Takahashi bt Jwala Gutta/ Ashwini Ponnappa 21-12, 20-22, 21-16; Eriko Hirose bt PC Thulasi 21-14, 21-15; Miyuki Maeda/ Reika Kakiiwa bt Saina Nehwal/ PV Sindhu 21-14, 21-11).at; Japanese men end China’s winning run