Korea dealt Japan a devastating blow on Wednesday with an astonishing 5-0 rout in their final Group D tie, with the Japanese left speechless at the end of a nightmarish session. Never in recent history have Japan collapsed in a manner such as this.
And while Japan were outplayed in every category, it was in the men’s singles that the meltdown started, with Kenta Nishimoto‘s unexpected capitulation to Jeon Hyeok Jin.
Just what is it with Jeon and predictability?
A year ago, he’d won the Korea Masters beating Kodai Naraoka in the final. At the Thomas Cup a month later, he won three of his four matches, including against Anders Antonsen in the quarterfinals. And then came a prolonged slide.
Jeon spent the next 12 months struggling at lower-tier events, even falling in qualifying rounds of International Challenger events. His slide in performance reflected in the latest rankings, as he fell 20 places to No.69.
When he turned up in today’s tie against Nishimoto – world No.15 – Jeon was the rank underdog. Contrary to expectations and form, Jeon produced a minor miracle, cutting apart Nishimoto’s challenge in the opening game and then showing presence of mind in the second to wrap the match in straight games, 21-11 21-19. The performance was an unexpected boost for Korea, who upstaged Japan with the incredible score of 5-0.
“This was a very important match for us, and if we win this tie we will meet a second-placed team. We won the first match so it was good energy for me. He’s ranked near the top 10 so it was challenging. I reminded myself not to make any mistakes and stay in the rally as long as I can,” said Jeon.
Jeon himself is unsure of why he has struggled at the International Challenger level when he has beaten highly-rated opponents.
“I haven’t figured out the exact reason yet; I’m still thinking about it,” he said.
“I’ve beaten players like Antonsen, I have that experience, and I don’t want to lose to lower-ranked players. Nishimoto is near top 10, so I will take heart from this and perhaps continue this style of play. So it’s time for me to analyse today’s game and look at what I did right.”
Jeon’s unexpected victory put Korea 2-0 ahead, and then it was An Se Young’s turn to effect a comprehensive defeat upon Akane Yamaguchi. The 21-11 21-15 victory for An handed Korea a 3-0 margin, putting them on top of Group D.
Japan’s nightmarish session continued with Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi falling apart against Seo Seung Jae/Kang Min Hyuk, 21-18 21-12 in 41 minutes. Baek Ha Na/Lee So Hee completed the rout beating Asian champions Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota.