Japan chasing their first Sudirman Cup title

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Akane Yamaguchi

Top seeds Japan  roared into the Sudirman Cup final with a 3-1 win over Indonesia in the semi-finals on Saturday – with an eye on the elusive world mixed team championships title – against 10-time champion China who had earlier knocked out Thailand 3-0.
It will be a repeat of the 2015 Sudirman Cup final when China won their 10th title with a comprehensive 3-0 win over the Japanese in Dongguan.
With a top heavy lineup in every department Japan looks capable of nailing the elusive cup which is named after Dick Sudirman, a former international from Indonesia and the founder of the Indonesian Badminton Association (PBSI).
Powered by current World No 1 Kento Momota in the men’s singles and Nozomi Okuhara (World No 2) and Akane Yamaguchi (No 4) in the women’s singles, men’s doubles Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda, (No 2) the Japanese are oozing with confidence.
Their relentless march to the final spells danger for the Chinese who themselves are top heavy in all the five events – Chen Long and Shi Yuqi (men’s singles), Chen Yufei (women’s singles), Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen (men’s doubles;Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan (women’s doubles), Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong (mixed doubles).
Japan’s winning point against Indonesia was clinched by their No 1 ranked pair in the women’s doubles Mayu Matsumoto-Wakana Nagahara who nailed Indonesia’s fifth ranked Greysia Polii-Apriyani Rahayu 21-15, 21-17.
Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, the top ranked men’s doubles pair, gave Indonesia the first point with a 21-14, 21-18 win over world number two Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda.
Japan, however, drew level through Yamaguchi in the women’s singles when she walked away with a 21-13, 21-13 win over former world junior champion Gregoria Mariska before Momota took to the court against Anthony Ginting in the men’s singles and prevailed 21-17, 21-19 in the men’s singles for a 2-1 lead.
China was never troubled by Thailand in their 3-0 win – winning the mixed doubles, men’s singles and men’s doubles for an unassailable lead and a place in the final.
Can Japan nail the elusive Sudirman Cup or will China nail their 11th title? Whatever the outcome it will be a thrlling affair between the top badminton playing nations with an eye on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH
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