Photo credit: Tang Shi
Two of the hottest names in badminton, Kento Momota from Japan and Viktor Axelsen from Denmark, are drawn to meet in the semifinal at Japan Open. Today they both did what they should to come one step closer to the big match.
World Champion Kento Momota eliminated one Dane yesterday when he won in straight games against Anders Antonsen. Today he continued his journey towards success on home ground against another Dane, Rasmus Gemke, who grabbed the title at Spain Masters little more than a week ago. And it was a Danish player who gave everything he had today. Gemke himself had qualified to second round by winning against Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk from Thailand yesterday.
Momota and Gemke played needed just under an hour to find a winner today. In a first game where the Japanese favorite had things in quite good control they went to interval at 11-2 for Momota. Rasmus Gemke didn’t give up so easily though. Slowly he began coming back as if he was climbing another Mount Fuji and he reduced the gap to just four points before Momota bagged the game 21-16.
Second game was a very close fight where the Dane had his chances to prolong the match with a third decisive game. The two were all even at 13-13 when Momota proved too strong in the finish and took the next four points in a row. With 21-18 the Japanese favorite could raise his hands in joy over being ready for the quarterfinal, but Gemke should not be too sad about his performance today. He had just given the world’s best player at the moment (maybe) a good fight at his home soil. Well done by the young Dane.
Another clash between Denmark and Japan
The World Champion from 2017, Viktor Axelsen from Denmark, is seeded 1 and he was part of another clash between Denmark and Japan. After a fairly easy win yesterday against Hsu Jen Hao from Chinese Taipei, Axelsen was off to a bad start against Kenta Nishimoto today. The Japanese quickly came in front with 5-1 before the Danish machine started functioning as it should and reduced the gap to a single point.
Nishimoto once again went ahead though and went to interval at 11-6. But the Japanese only got two more points in first game. Viktor Axelsen won the seven next points and followed up with another six consecutive points after giving away one point to his opponent. Eventually the Danish favorite closed first game 21-13 and he looked very confident on himself.
Second game was a close affair though. A lead of 10-6 for Kenta Nishimoto was changed to an 11-10 lead for Axelsen at interval. Then followed some close rallies and only towards the end of the game Axelsen pulled away and won the match on his second match point; 21-17 for the Danish favorite in second game.
Did you know that Kento Momota vs. Rasmus Gemke and VIktor Axelsen vs. Kenta Nishimoto were played with the exact same speed? In Momota’s match they played 76 points in 58 minutes – in Axelsen’s match it took 55 minutes for 72 points. That gives an average of 1.31 points per minute in both matches. Fair enough, there are 0.04 seconds difference if you look at seconds per point: 45.83 sec for Axelsen and 45.79 sec for Momota. That’s close enough to be called the exact same speed!
Interesting matches tomorrow
Both players have to be ready again when they play their quarterfinals tomorrow. Kento Momota will be one part of what could very well become the most interesting match in the quarterfinals: The World Champions is facing Lin Dan in the first encounter between the two for three and a half year. Lin Dan won the only previous battle they had with 21-18 21-19 in the quarterfinal of All England 2015. Now they are playing in Japan and Momota is on top of the world. It’s time for revenge…
Axelsen is going to play Indonesia’s bronze medalist from the Asian Games, Anthony Sinisuka Ginting. For them it’s also the second encounter and it’s the favorite – Axelsen – who is chasing revenge here as well. Ginting won in three games against the Dane in the group stage of Sudirman Cup 2017; 13-21 21-17 21-14.
The winners of these two quarterfinals will face each other in the semifinal on Saturday. There are many fans who wish to see Momota vs. Axelsen in that match – but who knows, maybe it will be Ginting vs. Lin Dan instead.
Strongest comeback of the week
In women’s single we witnessed a rather unusual development in the match between Ratchanok Intanon, Thailand, and Gregoria Mariska Tunjung, Indonesia. The Thai had won the two players’ only previous encounter in three games at Indonesia Open two months ago. The beginning of today’s encounter indicated that Tunjung would equalize the head-to-head statistics to 1-1.
Ratchanok started first game a bit unfocused and Tunjung quickly went in front 12-5. The young Indonesian seemed very much in control but after the interval it was a completely different Thai we saw on court. Ratchanok put pace on the rallies and outplayed her opponent completely as she took no less than 13 consecutive points to bring herself in a comfortable situation. The strongest comeback of the week was a fact as first game went to the favorite from Thailand with 21-15.
For the rest of the match there was not much to come with for Tunjung who was obviously shaken by the amazing comeback Ratchanok delivered. Second game was a Thai one-way street and in 40 minutes the match was over. Ratchanok won 21-13 and is now ready for a very big clash with a good friend of hers tomorrow, the triple World Champion Carolina Marín from Spain. Marín qualified for the quarterfinal by defeating another Thai, Pornpawee Chochuwong, in three games today.
Results from matches with seeded players on the winning side today:
WS: Ratchanok Intanon, Thailand (4) vs. Gregoria Mariska Tunjung, Indonesia 21-15 21-13
WS: Akane Yamaguchi, Japan (2) vs. Cai Yanyan, China 21-18 21-19
WS: Nozomi Okuhara, Japan (8) vs. Sayaka Sato, Japan 21-10 21-14
WS: Chen Yufei, China (5) vs. Sung Ji Hyun, Korea 18-21 21-9 21-12
WS: Carolina Marín, Spain (6) vs. Pornpawee Chochuwong, Thailand 21-11 21-23 21-11
WD: Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota, Japan (1) vs. Chang Ye Na/Jung Kyung Eun, Korea 21-17 15-21 21-9
WD: Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan, China (3) vs. Misato Aratama/Akane Watanabe, Japan 21-19 21-16
WD: Mayu Matsumoto/Wakana Nagahara, Japan (8) vs. Maiken Fruergaard/Sara Thygesen, Denmark 21-17 21-13
WD: Jongkolphan Kititharakul/Rawinda Prajongjai, Thailand (6) vs. Supissara Paewsampran/Puttita Supajirakul, Thailand 21-13 21-18
WD: Greysia Polii/Apriyani Rahayu, Indonesia (4) vs. Ayako Sakuramoto/Yukiko Takahata, Japan 14-21 21-16 21-10
MS: Kento Momota, Japan (3) vs. Rasmus Gemke, Denmark 21-16 21-18
MS: Viktor Axelsen, Denmark (1) vs. Kenta Nishimoto, Japan 21-13 21-17
MS: Chen Long, China (6) vs. Suppanyu Avihingsanon, Thailand 21-6 21-10
MS: Kidambi Srikanth, India (7) vs. Wong Wing Ki Vincent, Hong Kong 21-15 21-14
MD: Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, Indonesia (1) vs. Wahyu Nayaka Arya Pangkaryanira/Ade Yusuf Santoso, Indonesia 21-13 21-17
MD: Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen, China (2) vs. Mohammad Ahsan/Hendra Setiawan, Indonesia – walkover
XD: Zheng Siwei/Huang Yaqiong, China (1) vs. Yuki Kaneko/Misaki Matsutomo, Japan 21-18 21-14
XD: Zhang Nan/Li Yinhui, China (5) vs. Tan Kian Meng/Lai Pei Jing, Malaysia 21-9 21-18
XD: Wang Yilyu/Huang Dongping, China (2) vs. Wang Chi-Lin/Lee Chia Hsin, Chinese Taipei 21-8 21-8
XD: Goh Soon Huat/Shevon Jemie Lai, Malaysia (6) vs. He Jiting/Du Yue, China 21-13 23-21
Stay tuned! There are more Japan Open updates on the way…