Wake-Up Call for Japan – Sudirman Cup ’19

Monday, May 20, 2019
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO

Title favourites Japan received a jolt in their opening tie of the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019, having to clamber back from 1-2 down to beat Russia in Group 1A today.

Russia’s spirited charge was led by Vladimir Malkov, who, though ranked No.62 to his opponent Kenta Nishimoto’s No.10, delivered an embarrassing early blow to the top seeds.

It got worse for Japan with Vladimir Ivanov/Ivan Sozonov out-hustling Yuta Watanabe/Hiroyuki Endo in men’s doubles, leaving the top seeds precariously positioned.

Yuki Fukushima (left) and Sayaka Hirota took Japan to safety.

However, Russia were no match for Japan in the women’s categories. Nozomi Okuhara was too quick for Natalia Perminova in women’s singles (21-6 21-16), before Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota stamped out the challenge of Ekaterina Bolotova/Alina Davletova in women’s doubles, 21-5 21-16, to wrap proceedings.

Having taken Japan to safety, Fukushima claimed they weren’t particularly upset by the twin setbacks in the tie.

Vladimir Ivanov (right) and Ivan Sozonov dealt a second blow to Japan.

“It was a relief to win the match. I wouldn’t say we were disappointed when we were 1-2 down. This is normal in a team event,” said Fukushima.

Match of the Session

It was Malkov who signalled that Japan’s opening day would be anything but smooth. The tall Russian played a composed game against Nishimoto, making few errors and troubling the Japanese with his steeply-angled half-smashes.

Nishimoto looked distinctly uneasy all through the 50-minute encounter, moving on leaden feet and struggling to find openings. Malkov’s 21-18 21-17 score blew a hole in Japan’s fort, and it became grimmer with Watanabe/Endo’s 40-minute capitulation to Ivanov/Sozonov, 21-19 21-16.

The big Russians had all the answers to the Japanese, with Ivanov’s booming smashes finding no response. The two defeats, while not derailing Japan’s campaign, certainly poses some embarrassing questions to the title favourites.

Talking Point

“We haven’t played well for a year. This win is very important for us, to give us confidence for upcoming matches, and especially for next year. This is an important year for Olympic qualification. We want to stay at this level and compete with the top players, but we need to keep practicing,” said Sozonov.

Other Results

France completed their second win in Group 2A, beating Vietnam 4-1. The only point for Vietnam came in women’s singles through Vu Thi Trang, who beat Yaelle Hoyaux 21-13 21-10.

It wasn’t easy for France, though. The mixed doubles pair of Thom Gicquel/Delphine Delrue were stretched by Tuan Duc Do/Nhu Thao Pham before France went 1-0 up.

Brice Leverdez saved two match points before beating Nguyen Tien Minh.

Vietnam veteran Nguyen Tien Minh fell narrowly to Brice Leverdez in men’s singles, 21-18 21-23 21-19 after holding two match points.

In another Group 2A tie, Netherlands blanked USA 5-0.

Group 3B saw Switzerland beat Lithuania 4-1 and Sri Lanka get the better of Slovakia 4-1.

The Equation

Netherlands will take on France for the top position of Group 2A.