After semifinal action on Saturday, in which China and Japan had entered the final of the Vivo BWF Sudirman Cup, China produced a powerful performance to end Japan’s hopes of winning top honors on Sunday. The Chinese won three tightly contested ties and the 3-0 victory settled the issue for them amid sounds produced from drums and horns with chants of Go-China-Go echoing in the badminton stadium of the southern Chinese city of Dongguan. For the Chinese, it was the sixth consecutive title victory and tenth overall in the prestigious team event. On Saturday, Nozomi Okuhara’s magnificent fight back against Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun had propelled Japan to their historic first appearance in the Sudirman Cup final, while China had accounted for Indonesia in the other semifinal.
China played authoritatively in front of stands packed with home supporters, despite facing their hardest test in opening men’s doubles tie. China’s Zhang Nan/Fu Haifeng had to contend with a stubborn resistance from Japanese duo of Kenichi Hayakawa/Hiroyuki Endo. Five service faults from the Japanese set them back a bit against Zhang Nan/Fu Haifeng. Regardless, Hayakawa/Endo overcome their frustration and wrested the second game from the Chinese after losing the first. In the decider, China took an early 10-4 lead but the Japanese pair recovered to 11-9. Afterwards, Hayakawa made another service-fault and Chinese pair raised their game to take the opening tie 21-17, 20-22, 21-17 in 79 minutes. The second tie was women’s singles, in which Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi began brilliantly against world no.1 Li Xuerui. The Chinese looked in deep trouble with Yamaguchi sending down fierce smashes and covering the court with amazing speed. Yamaguchi took the first game to the brink but Li found her touch with delicate net play and won at 23-21. With Li returning to her usual game, Yamaguchi lost the steam in the second game to lose 21-23, 14-21. China won their sixth Sudirman Cup on the trot with Lin Dan winning the next men’s singles tie against Japanese Takuma Ueda. Recognizing Lin Dan’s unmatched shuttling skills, Ueda knew he had to play extraordinarily against such a strong opponent. But the Super Dan was ready on Sunday as he returned everything that Ueda threw at him. Producing a series of winners from the most unexpected situations; Lin Dan took China to the title victory with a 21-15, 21-13 result against the Japanese in 49 minutes.
Earlier on Saturday, Japan and China had entered the final by overcoming their opponents from Korea and Indonesia respectively. In the semifinal with Korea, Japan began disastrously as Koreans Lee/Yoo were unstoppable against Hirokatsu Hashimoto/Noriyasu Hirata. After playing dominantly with solid defense, the Koreans defeated the Japanese 21-18, 21-16. It was at this point that Nozomi Okuhara’s amazing fight back in the women’s singles against Sung Ji Hyun gave Japan big hopes as they leveled the contest 1-1. After losing the first game 11-21, Okuhara bounced back in the next two games to beat Sung 11-21, 21-17, 21-14 with sheer persistence. But Japan slipped to a 1-2 deficit with Takuma Ueda losing the men’s singles tie 9-21, 20-22 to Son Wan Ho. Now they needed to win both mixed and women’s doubles that were to follow. Japan’s women’s doubles combo of Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi made it 2-2 for their country with a 21-17, 21-8 against Koreans Jung Kyung Eun and Chang Ye Na. The last mixed doubles tie proved the decisive in the end and the Japanese duo of Kenta Kazuno/Ayane Kurihara won against world no.8 mixed doubles pair of Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na. In a big-stage performance the inexperienced Japanese blew away the established Koreans 21-14, 21-15 to take Japan to the Sudirman Cup final.
Defending champions China had reached the final with a 3-1 win against Indonesia. In first men’s doubles tie, Indonesia raised hopes of an upset, when Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan defeated the Chinese Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng 21-16, 21-17. The match belonged to the sublime skills of Setiawan’s net-play that left the Chinese in a limbo. In women’s doubles tie, Li Xuerei didn’t have to do much as Bellaetrix Manuputty fell to the floor clutching her knee after leading 5-2 in the first game. Manuputty’s retirement made it 1-1 for China. In the men’s singles, Indonesian teenager Jonatan Christie had no chance against world champion Chen Long and lost 10-21, 15-21. Women’s doubles tie was the last match in China-Indonesia semifinal. Although Greysia Polii/Nitya Krishinda Maheswari revived Indonesia’s hopes with a 21-17 win in the first game, the Chinese women Tang Yuangting/Yu Yang bounced back in next two games with assertive play and finished at 17-21, 21-17, 21-15 to facilitate China’s entry to the final.
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