Photo credit: Tang Shi
In the rematch of the Asian Games semifinal from 2014 the gold and silver have been decided between the no. 1 and no. 2 seeded teams in a final that finished just moments ago. Reigning Champions from China were up against the top seeds from Japan in a very interesting battle.
Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi has not delivered her best performance during this week’s team events at the Asian Games. Before today’s final she was still fighting for her first victory (she previously lost to Pusarla V. Sindhu and Gregoria Mariska Tunjung) while her opponent today, Chen Yufei, had won her both previous matches. Still, the Japanese was small favorite in the two girls’ encounter today and she also had a head-to-head lead of 7-2 before the match began.
But there was nothing to come with for Yamaguchi. Chen outplayed her during most of the match and had no major problems bringing China into the lead with just 38 minutes of play. A victory in straight games concluded the bad statistics for the Japanese this week and also the good one for the Chinese. China was up 1-0 in the final.
Ready for the Chinese wall
In women’s double Japan had the world no. 1 ready for the former World Champions, Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan, ranked 3 in the world. The Chinese were leading 4-2 head-to-head before today but Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota who recently lost the World Championship final against their compatriots Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara were ready to climb the Chinese wall.
The picture was more or less turned around from the first match of the final. This time the Japanese were superior to the Chinese and Fukushima and Hirota completed their week of successful matches as they equalized the tie to 1-1 after their third win in straight games at the team event.
Only three game match of the final
Then followed the longest match of the final, Nozomi Okuhara against He Bingjiao. Both players had won both their previous matches in the team event but obviously only one of them would leave court with a perfect streak. First game was won by Okuhara by 21-16 but the Chinese fought back in second. In a very tight game Bingjiao managed to force the match into three games as she won second game 21-19.
Here it was the short Japanese world no. 8 who had the most energy left. After 78 minutes she had brought her team in front with 2-1. Okuhara won third game 21-15.
Very successful 2018!
Now it was up to Huang Dongping and Zheng Yu to prevent the gold from going to Japan in the next match. The two girls ranked 98 in the world were up against high odds with reigning Olympic Champions, Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi, on the other side of the net.
As the match went by there was less and less doubt who would claim the Asian Games gold 2018. The strong Japanese duo won first game 21-16 and from then they didn’t look back again. After 43 minutes they had taken second game 21-11 and they could celebrate with their team.
Japan’s women are without a doubt ruling the world this year. In May they won the Uber Cup in Thailand. Now they also claimed the Asian Games gold in Indonesia. What a fantastic year for the Japanese women’s team!
Big congratulations to Japan!
Chen Yufei vs. Akane Yamaguchi 21-15 21-12
Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota vs. Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan 21-12 21-17
Nozomi Okuhara vs. He Bingjiao 21-16 19-21 21-15
Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi vs. Huang Dongping/Zheng Yu 21-16 21-11
Aya Ohori vs. Gao Fangjie (not played)
Bronze: Indonesia and Thailand