Saturday, June 14th Semifinals Day: Can Kenichi Tago Get Revenge Against Lee Chong Wei; Ayaka Takahashi/Misaki Matsutomo Challenge the Korean Aces
Court 1 Game 3
|Lee Chong Wei (MAS)
World No.1/31 Years Old
|VS||Kenichi Tago (JPN)
World No.4/23 Years Old
Win-Loss Record: Lee Chong Wei 16 Wins 1 Loss
Last year, upon making it to his first Yonex Open Japan final, Kenichi Tago shed tears of joy. However, with world No.1 Lee Chong Wei as his opponent, he was defeated 21-23 17-21, and thoroughly crushed. Furthermore, with a record of 1 win and 16 losses, the odds aren't looking very good for Kenichi. "To be frank, I can't say I can win against Lee Chong Wei," commented Kenichi.
That said, he's not giving up. In fact, this year, he's especially motivated. "Within our 17 matches, I've won once. I'll play in this next match with eyes fully fixed on the prize," mentioned Kenichi further. It's clear that Chong Wei has the mental advantage, crushing Kenichi at the Thomas Cup with 21-12 21-16. His quick, world-class smashes still manage to deliver even now.
Will Kenichi be able to slow Chong Wei down with his soft racket-work? Japanese fans are looking to Kenichi with hopes as high as ever for a victory. Could this finally be Japan's year?
Comment from Kenichi
"Playing with Lee Chong Wei several times in the past, we both have good ideas of each others' style. There's no doubt it will be an especially harsh match, but the question is how I can handle it. All I want to focus on right now is preparation."
Court 2 Game 4
|Jan O Jordensen (DEN)
World No.3/27 Years Old
|VS||Hu Yun (HKG)
World No.15/32 Years Old
Win-Loss Record: Jan O Jordensen 2 Wins 0 Losses
With Olympic and world champion Lin Dan down at the hands of Jan O Jordensen and world No.2 Chen Long down at the hands of Hu Yun, China's top picks for the champion title are out in the quarterfinal. Now Jan and Yun will battle it out in the semifinal. "I waited for my chance, and took it. Not with one rally, but several. That's how I won," commented Jan on his victory.
32-year-old veteran Hu Yun had this to say about his quarterfinal victory, "I was losing strength after Chen Long controlled the first game. However, he was getting tired as well. While he faltered at that moment, I didn't." Entering into the final-four two years ago, Chen Long is climbing to the top again. He's a strong player, excelling despite the venue's difficult conditions—specifically the strong wind as a result of the air-conditioning. "Everyone's playing too carefully, and because of that the rallies are slow. With my fast plays, the odds are in my favor."
Both Jan and Yun are players who rack up points in their rallies. Both of them defeating two of this year's most formidable opponents, it goes without saying that their desire for victory is burning stronger than ever. Long rallies are expected, and whoever breaks under the pressure first loses.
Court 1 Game 2
|Li Xuerui (CHN)
World No.1/23 Years Old
|VS||Sung Ji Hyun (KOR)
World No.4/22 Years Old
Win-Loss Record: Li Xuerui 6 Wins 0 Losses
Both standing tall at roughly 175cm with long limbs, Li Xuerui and Sung Ji Hyun are in the best possible position for any shuttler in women's singles. However, they differ in style. London Olympic gold medalist Xuerui commands fast rallies with incredibly efficient footwork. On the other hand, 2012's No.3 Sung likes rallies that utilize the entire court, aiming for the corners.
Whoever traps the other in their style first will certainly be the one who achieves victory.
Court 2 Game 1 (Starting at 12:10)
|Tai Tzu Ying (TPE)
World No.7/19 years Old
|VS||Liu Xin (CHN)
World No.33/24 Years Old
Win-Loss Record: First Matchup
With the forfeit of Japanese star Sayaka Takahashi, 19-year-old Tai Tzu Ying advances to the semifinals. She will face Liu Xin, who defeated veteran Yip Pui Yin (HKG). With this matchup, Yonex Open Japan has taken another interesting turn.
Tzu Ying took the champion title at 2012's Yonex Open Japan when she was 18. While an unorthodox shuttler, Tzu Ying moves around the court swiftly, executes superb feints, and hits with glee. Catching other players off-guard is her specialty. Her opponent, Xin, currently stands at 33 globally, but has made it up to 5th in the past. At 171cm tall, she commands the court with excellent defense and offence, and is certainly not an opponent to be taken lightly. "Liu Xin plays a near perfect game. She'll be tough to beat," commented Tzu Ying. "She's incredibly strong, and has a reputation amongst the entire Chinese team," mentioned Xin in regards to Tzu Ying.
With a matchup like this, it's impossible to say who will come out on top.
Comments From the Players
Tai Tzu Ying: "I'm feeling good, and am without injury. However, at this point, I'm still not sure about a (first in two years) champion title."
Liu Xin: "There is huge pressure on the Chinese team to win the title. However, pushing that aside, all I'm focusing on is winning with my own power. If I win, China wins."
Court 2 Game 2
|Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong
World No.6/25 Years Old/27 Years Old
|VS||Angga Pratama/Ryan Agung Saputra
World No.13/23 Years Old/24 Years Old
Win-Loss Record: Indonesia: 1 Win 0 Losses
Turning 23 at this tournament, Angga Pratama and his partner Ryan Agung Saputra stand at 13 globally, but won against Korean pair Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong in January of this year. However, it was a close match at 22-20 21-16. As such, it's impossible to tell who will emerge victorious this time around. "They read us like a book, and it really threw our game off. We need to face the semifinal with strict physical and mental preparation," commented the Korean pair, seeking revenge.
Between Korea's strict defense and Indonesia's rapid-fire shooting, this semifinal promises to be a world-class match.
Court 1, Match 1 (Starting at 12:00)
|Ayaka Takahashi/Misaki Matsutomo (JPN)
World No.3/24 Years Old/22 Years Old
|VS||Jang Ye Na/So Young Kim (KOR)
World No.5/24 Years Old/22 Years Old
Win-Loss Record: Korean Pair 1 Win 0 Losses
Japanese and Korean aces clash in the semifinal. Representing Korea—the empire of doubles—is Jan Ye Na/So Young Kim. Taking down Ma/Tang's attacks with solid receives in the English Open's semifinal, these two Korean players strength lies in their obsessive relays that rob opponents of their strength. If Ayaka Takahashi/Misaki Matsutomo want a chance at winning, they need to get the edge on their opponents before getting sucked into their relays.
"Jang is a leftie with a unique hit. If I can get her close to the net, we'll have a successful match," commented Ayaka. The Japanese pair's recipe for success places Misaki controlling the front, while Ayaka handles the back, delivering a strong game.
Comment from Ayaka Takahashi
"We absolute want to win against Korea. We've lost to them before, so we're going into this match as challengers."
Court 2, Match 5
|Miyuki Maeda/Reika Kakiiwa (JPN)
World No.6/28 Years Old/24 Years Old
|VS||Jung Kyung Eun/Kim Ha Na (KOR)
World No.9/24 Years Old/24 Years Old
Win-Loss Record: Korean Pair 2 Wins 1 Loss
Japan's offensive pair of Miyuki Maeda/Reika Kakiiwa goes against Korea's second best, Jung Kyung Eun/Kim Ha Na. Both doubles experts, Kyung Eun and Ha Na command solid defense, looking for chances within their opponents' fierce attacks, then strike—classic Korean badminton. With the Japanese pair keen to this strategy, they plan to conquer their fatigue—and the match. "Throughout our matches, we're steadily learning each others' style. When the chance comes, we'll take it," commented Miyuki.
If the Japanese pair utilizes their drives and competently pace their rallies like they did against China in the quarterfinal, they have a good chance at victory.
Court 2 Game 3
|Michael Fuchs/Birgit Michels (GER)
World No.13/32 Years Old/29 Years Old
|VS||Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah (HKG)
World No.8/20 Years Old/28 Years Old
Win-Loss Record: First Matchup
On one side, the rock-solid German pair of Michael Fuchs/Birgi Michels has made it through Yonex Open Japan proving their firm desire for victory. On the other side is the two-year-strong Hong Kong China pair of Lee Chun Hei/Chau Hoi Wah, who excelled in April's Asian Championship. In the words of Chun Hei, "European players are strong, with firm physiques," the German pair is all about their attacks. However, defense happens to be Chun Hei/Hoi Wah's specialty, with their defense working as their offence. Time will tell if whether oppressive offence or determined defense will win.
Court 1 Game 5
|Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei (CHN)
World No.1/24 Years Old/27 Years Old
|VS||Kenichi Hayakawa/Misaki Matsutomo (JPN)
World No.19/28 Years Old/22 Years Old
Win-Loss Record: China 3 Wins 0 Losses
World No.1 London Olympic gold medalists Zhang Nan/Zhao Yunlei face off against Japanese champions Kenichi Hayakawa/Misaki Matsutomo. The Japanese pair has not won against the highly experienced Chinese pair before, but Misaki’s sharp wit in front of the net stands at the same level as Yunlei’s gold-medal skills. The Japanese pair have a chance if Misaki can lure the opponents’ shuttle upwards, then connect it with a decisive blow from Kenichi.
The main highlight will definitely be the front-court battle between Misaki and Yunlei.
*Schedule may change without prior notice.