Japan Flex Muscles – World Superseries Halfway Review
Sunday, July 23, 2017
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO

Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi’s first World Superseries title of the season in Australia saw them climb three places into fifth spot on the Destination Dubai Rankings.

The Japanese duo (featured image) took their time to get going, having fallen in the second round of the Yonex All England, but went far in subsequent tournaments. Semi-finals at the Celcom Axiata Malaysia Open and a runner-up spot at the OUE Singapore Open found them back on track. An uncharacteristic first round loss at the BCA Indonesia Open – to China’s Huang Yaqiong/Yu Xiaohan – was put behind in the best possible way, as they stormed to the Crown Group Australian Open crown the following week.

Their 21-10 21-13 decimation of familiar rivals Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl in the final signaled that they will be the top contenders for their maiden World title.

At the half-way stage of the MetLife World Superseries season, Japan is the pre-eminent power in Women’s Doubles. No less than four pairs occupy spots in the top eight, while even China – for long the dominant nation in this discipline – has only a single pair, at No.7.

Japan will be thrilled that their emerging pairs have already proved to be winners. Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto came of age in stunningly quick time this season. The pair, relative unknowns at the top level, were No.36 in August last year; they reached their first Superseries final in India, and to their credit, showed no sign of nerves as they outlasted compatriots Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao for the crown.

Tanaka and Yonemoto went on to make the semi-finals of the Indonesia Open and the quarter-finals of the Australian Open, giving them 35,910 points, placing them ahead of Matsutomo/Takahashi but behind another Japanese pair, Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota.

Like Hirota/Yonemoto, Fukushima and Hirota (No.3) had a stellar rise in 2017. The young pair stunned their seasoned compatriots Matsutomo/Takahashi in the second round of the All England, and later, in the semi-finals of the Malaysia Open. In their first Superseries final, the young pair played with assurance to beat China’s Huang Yaqiong/Tang Jinhua in three games.

With Fukuman/Yonao (No.8) also enjoying consistent results, Japan have a wealth of riches as they head to Glasgow seeking their first World title in this category since 1977 when Etsuko Toganoo/Emiko Ueno won the title.

The top spot is owned, for the moment, by Korea’s Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee, who started their season on a grand note by winning the All England. The Koreans were semi-finalists in Malaysia and Singapore and runners-up in Indonesia. At 41,730 points, they are over 3,000 points ahead of the second placed Pedersen/Rytter Juhl.

Danes Pedersen/Rytter Juhl never let their foot off the pedal, surging to the final of the All England and maintaining their form throughout the first half of the season. They were winners in Singapore, runners-up in England and Australia, and quarter-finalists in Malaysia and Indonesia.

The second Korean pair in the top ten is Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan (No.6). The Koreans played all six Superseries, their best being semi-final finishes in England, India and Singapore.

One spot behind them, at No.7, are China’s Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan, who started the season badly with a first round loss in England; they rebounded, however, with quarter-final placings in Malaysia and Singapore before claiming the crown in Indonesia.

Thailand’s Sapsiree Taerattanachai was busy in both her disciplines; in Women’s Doubles she and Puttita Supajirakul (No.9) made three quarter-finals – in India, Singapore and Indonesia.

At tenth are Chinese Taipei’s Hsu Ya Ching/Wu Ti Jung, second-round finishers in five Superseries, while China’s Huang Yaqiong/Tang Jinhua, runners-up in Malaysia, are at No.11. Another Chinese pair, Bao Yixin/Yu Xiaohan, are at No.12, just ahead of India’s Ashwini Ponnappa/Sikki Reddy.

Top Ten (Women’s Doubles)

1.Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee (Korea)

2.Christinna Pedersen/Kamilla Rytter Juhl (Denmark)

3.Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota (Japan)

4.Shiho Tanaka/Koharu Yonemoto (Japan)

5.Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi (Japan)

6.Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan (Korea)

7.Chen Qingchen/Jia Yifan (China)

8.Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao (Japan)

9.Sapsiree Taerattanachai/Puttita Supajirakul (Thailand)

10.Hsu Ya Ching/Wu Ti Jung (Chinese Taipei)

 

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