Momota Falls but Japan Ride Malaysian Challenge

Lee Zii Jia avenged his recent loss to Kento Momota but his heroics were insufficient to stop Japan from making the title round of the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals 2021.

Japan thus followed China into the final, setting up a repeat of the 2019 clash that was won 3-0 by China.

China are in the reckoning for their 12th title, while Japan are seeking their first.

In the second semifinal today, Japan were in control for the most part. Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi took advantage of a subdued performance by Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik first up; Akane Yamaguchi was barely troubled by Kisona Selvaduray in the women’s singles.

Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi gave Japan the vital lead in the first match.

That left Lee Zii Jia in a must-win situation and to his credit, he was more dynamic and creative than in his last match with Momota. The Japanese started well but made quite a few errors in judgement; once the lead was lost the world No.1 fell back on his safe percentage game, and indeed, scored few outright smash winners throughout the match.

Lee took on the challenge with a more proactive approach, cracking some fierce smashes that his opponent struggled to read; he also mixed it up well to keep Momota guessing. The risk-taking was greater, and he was rewarded as the shuttle tumbled off the tape a few times.

“I can’t describe my feelings; I’m very excited and very happy,” Lee said. “Today I showed my game to the fans, to the Malaysian fans, that I was one of the best and that I could beat anyone.

“Getting the first game was important. You need to put a lot of stamina into matches with him. I had no choice, I had to gamble (on a few shots). After the first game my confidence went up and I was trying to calm myself. I could solve the problems today and I’m happy. You have to work hard, he’s a strong defensive player, you have to play different kinds of shots. It was a tough match.”

Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan had played a marathon yesterday, against Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu, but the Malaysians showed plenty of pluck in their do-or-die battle with Mayu Matsumoto and Misaki Matsutomo.

Misaki Matsutomo and Mayu Matsumoto saw Japan to safety.

Matsutomo’s inventiveness made the difference in the opening game, and once the Japanese had it in the bag, they steadily gained on the Malaysians.

Mayu Matsumoto hoped the team could reverse their fortunes from the Sudirman Cup final two years ago.

“Today we came through a tough semifinal. Last time we lost to China, but we hope that our team can challenge them tomorrow and win the final.”

Click here for Match Centre.

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