Photo credit: Tang Shi

Host nation Indonesia was up against the Uber Cup winners from Japan in the women’s semifinals today and they were off to a fantastic start. 19-year old Tunjung is still unbeaten at the Asian Games.

Gregoria Mariska Tunjung played first single against world no. 2, Akane Yamaguchi, and the Japanese was favorite to win. In her two first matches in this event Tunjung won against Cheung Ngan Yi from Hong Kong and Sung Ji Hyun from Korea. She knew it would be really tough against Yamaguchi but the young Indonesian World Junior Champion from 2017 was simply outstanding today.

Tunjung played beautifully and won first game 21-16 before she slowed down and the errors took over in second game, which Akane Yamaguchi won easily 21-9. In the third decisive game the Japanese quickly got an 8-2 lead but Gregoria Mariska Tunjung fought back and went to interval up 11-10. This was the turnaround of the match. While Yamaguchi became more insecure, Tunjung played more confidentially.

The young Indonesian won third game 21-18 in her first match against the Japanese world no. 2 and brought her team in the lead with 1-0.

Japan to strike back

The Uber Cup winners were down but not out. They knew they had to strike back and first attempt to do so was in women’s single where Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota played against Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu. The Japanese world no. 1 who won silver at the recent World Championships had a negative head-to-head statistic against the two Indonesians (1-2). However, they had won the latest encounter, which happened to be in the same arena as today – the Istora Senayan in Jakarta – at the Indonesia Open in July.

Fukushima and Hirota were well-prepared today. They kept the Indonesians under pressure from first point with a solid defense combined with a strong attack. No matter what tactic Polii and Rahayu used it seemed that it didn’t help today against the world no. 1 pair. Fukushima and Hirota equalized the tie by winning in straight games 21-13 21-12.

Surprise on the way?

Fitriani was up against former World Champion Nozomi Okuhara who was also the favorite in the second single. The two girls are ranked 40 and 8 in the world respectively and Okuhara had a 1-0 lead head-to-head before today’s match. The Indonesia wasn’t interested in giving up without a fight though. She wanted to deliver a surprise.

In first game Fitriani played with lots of confidence and played long rallies to make her Japanese opponent suffer in the heat. This tactic turned out successful as she bagged the game 21-19. But in second game Nozomi Okuhara stepped very hard on the gas pedal and didn’t look back at all. With 21-4 21-10 the Japanese made up for her loss in first game and she brought the Uber Cup Champions in the lead with 2-1.

Japan proves too strong

The Olympic Champions Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi were next on court against Rizki Amelia Pradipta and Della Destiara Haris. The Japanese had won both previous encounters against the Indonesians, both times in two games and both times in 2018.

And this time it quickly showed which way the wind blew again – unfortunately for the Indonesians but fortunately for the Japanese. Matsutomo and Takahashi were never in big problems on the way to their win of 21-13 21-10. Japan won the semifinal 3-1 and they once again proved they are among the very best of the best in women’s badminton.

The Uber Cup Champions 2018 will face the reigning Asian Games Champions from China in tomorrow’s final.

 

Results:

Gregoria Mariska Tunjung vs. Akane Yamaguchi 21-16 9-21 21-18
Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota vs. Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu 21-13 21-12
Nozomi Okuhara vs. Fitriani Fitriani 19-21 21-4 21-10
Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi vs. Della Destiara Haris/Rizki Amelia Pradipta 21-13 21-10

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