Group 1 Semi-finals
CHINA beat JAPAN: 3-2
The line up order started with the discipline China's is currently strongest in and Japan is weakest in but it still went the full distance.
In the mixed doubles, Arisa Higashino / Yuta Watanabe set a challenge for the world #1 Chen Qingchen / Zheng Siwei to catch up to Japan being one game up 21-12. Chen only warmed up by 6-6 in the second game and then the Chinese rattled off four points with the panache and self-congratulations at every digit's increase.
Fortunately, Japan had controlled their unforced error rate before going into the rubber to be able to give spectators four players in both pairs at their optimum.
Japan's composure from the first game returned and they were just that little bit more inspired and won the match of the night, 21-12, 14-21, 21-19. Yuta Watanabe felt the pressure of winning from being ahead and tossed two of their five points lead. He regained his composure after snapping his strings to daringly pull off the perfect return of short serve that was too awkward for Zheng Siwei to return.
The mixed doubles win already betters Japan's last Sudirman Cup tie outing result against China which was in the Dongguan 2015 final.
Badminton's greatest-of-all-time and current world #9 Lin Dan leveled the tie at one a piece, 21-19, 21-16. In their first ever encounter, Lin was simultaneously impressed and unprepared for how good Kenta Nishimoto turned out to be at retrieving his signature cross court smashes. Nishimoto must have honed this newfound ability through playing the other living legend Lee Chong Wei yesterday.
Lin and Nishimoto exchanged leads multiple times because it was often only a point difference for three quarters of both games. Being one game up, Lin judged it was worth the risk to go for more accurate shots judiciously within the rallies and it paid off by finishing the match without heading into a rubber.
The men's doubles between two world top 5 pairs started off with neither Japan nor China being able to get on a roll in the score in the first game. Kamura wasn't converting net kills easily as it was difficult to intercept such fast and hard hitting. The Japanese reached game point first and the Chinese snatched it away by forcing the agenda.
In the second game, the Japanese weren't too tired but playing the style they wanted to after so many intense rallies with little headway had lessened their hitting power. They were already using up more strength than usual to stay level against two 6 foot Chinese and understandably faded. The higher ranked Li Junhui / Liu Yuchen beat Keigo Sonoda / Takeshi Kamura 23-21, 21-16.
Japan's women's singles world #3 Akane Yamaguchi played smartly against the 6 foot tall Sun Yu of China. Yamaguchi kept short clears to a minimum so as not to give away the odd free point. She made her mark in the longer rallies with dropshots that surprised her Chinese opponent as well as the entire stadium watching on. The most amazing rally was winning ahead 17-15, where the 5' 1” tall Japanese had to run down a net shot from the rear backhand corner and still have sufficient energy for an extended exchange which she won in the end without looking puffed out.
In the second game, Yamaguchi proactively hunted Sun Yu's straight smash to cross it back completely out of range. The gap after the interval was widened as Yamaguchi produced lovely angled smashes of her own to win 21-17, 21-15.
Women's doubles decided the tie in favour of China 3-2 over Japan under the most dramatic of circumstances. The umpire faulted the Japanese for touching the net in the process of saving a desperate shuttle which then brought up match point for China, 20-19, in the rubber. (If there hadn't been a fault it would have been deuce for Japan as part of their diligent comeback.)
Japan's world #1 and China's world #4 met for the first time since December last year. The younger Chinese Chen Qingchen / Jia Yifan beat Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi again, this time 21-12, 21-19.
In the first game, the Japanese weren't allowed to install their usual plan and when the opportunity to do so at seven game points down, Matsutomo hit an easy front court kill into the net. Prior to that, Takahashi's timing failed miserably, particularly on defence. Swapping sides produced better timing on Japanese shots but their comeback was foiled in the last moments.
China shall meet Korea in tomorrow's 2017 Sudirman Cup / World Team Championships final.