World Champion Chen Long and No.4 seed Kento Momota lost their way at the Yonex Open Japan 2015 today, falling in the second round of Men’s Singles.
While World champion Chen was outplayed by his Chinese compatriot Tian Houwei 21-16 21-17, Momota was undone by Indonesia’s Tommy Sugiarto, 16-21 21-13 21-19.
Meanwhile, in a high-profile battle, Malaysia’s Lee Chong Wei once again faltered before his nemesis Lin Dan. The 21-17 21-10 victory for the Olympic champion marked Lee’s first failure to make the Yonex Open Japan finals in six years, while proving that Lin is still very much in contention in his quest for a third Olympic gold medal despite some early losses this season.
There were some surprises in other categories too. Women’s Singles No.1 Saina Nehwal of India was uncharacteristically subdued against Japan’s Minatsu Mitani, while Men’s Doubles No.2 seeds Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (Denmark) lost an hour-long battle to Korea’s Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang.
Hosts Japan had a bright day despite the loss of Men’s Singles hope Kento Momota. Three of their Women’s Singles prospects made the quarter-finals, while two went down fighting.
The marquee match of the day between Lee and Lin failed to live up to expectations, although it promised much to begin with: quicksilver exchanges and stunning returns to blazing smashes. Lin showed more urgency than he had during his comeback win against Korea’s Son Wan Ho in the first round; it was as if, confronted by his great rival, he had conjured up an earlier, more energetic version of himself. Gone was the conservativeness of the last many months during which he had fallen to unexpected losses.
It was touch-and-go in the first game and Lee just about gave Lin sufficient space to wriggle past. The loss of the first game saw the Malaysian change tactics, playing the shuttle deep and to the corners, working on getting the opening before pulling the trigger. One exchange at Lee trailing 8-11 showcased the brilliance of both protagonists: the rally went on interminably, with each testing the other with silken shots before Lee fired a winner through a narrow gap.
But that was about the best point that he enjoyed. Although Lee stayed level in the rallies, his finishing touch was awry, and innumerable errors at the net undid his cause. By midway in the third he appeared to have lost all confidence. It was a match in which he had to bring his best form; unfortunately for him, that did not happen.
Lin will take on Tian Houwei, who surprised top seed Chen in straight games. There were a few other surprises in Men’s Singles: Indonesian qualifier Ihsan Maulana’s (above) dream run continued as he shocked Hong Kong’s Hu Yun 21-5 21-14; Maulana faces compatriot Tommy Sugiarto, who edged past local hope Kento Momota 16-21 21-13 21-19. Third seed K Srikanth (India) also fell, beaten by compatriot Kashyap Parupalli 21-11 21-19.
Japan’s Women’s Singles players had standout performances, with their relentless retrieving driving their opponents to desperation. Nozomi Okuhara left No.5 seed Ratchanok Intanon (Thailand, 5) in a daze with a 15-21 21-13 21-3 result, while Minatsu Mitani and Akane Yamaguchi outplayed Saina Nehwal (India) and Beiwen Zhang (USA) respectively in straight games.
Two other Japanese – Ayumi Mine (above) and Kaori Imabeppu – played their hearts out although they ended up falling to higher ranked opponents. Mine very nearly got the better of No.7 seed Wang Shixian (China) in a marathon match that lasted 91 minutes. The diminutive Japanese, just 150 cm tall, scurried around retrieving Wang’s best shots and held match point in the second game, but the Chinese survived and eased through comfortably in the third. Wang’s compatriot Li Xuerui also faced stiff resistance, with Imabeppu holding three game points, which the challenger failed to convert.
Men’s Doubles second seeds Mathias Boe/Carsten Mogensen (Denmark) ran into Korea’s Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang, 18-21 21-18 21-16. The Koreans next face Japan’s Hiroyuki Endo/Kenichi Hayakawa, who stopped Thailand’s Puavaranukroh Dechapol/Kedren Kittinupong 21-12 21-14. Others to make the quarter-finals included Malaysia’s Goh V Shem/Tan Wee Kiong (left) and Indonesia’s Angga Pratama/Ricky Karanda Suwardi.
Women’s Doubles qualifiers Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee got the better of Korean compatriots Go Ah Ra/Yoo Hae Won 22-20 21-13. Another Korean pair, Chae Yoo Jung/Kim So Yeong, also made the quarter-finals, where they face China’s Luo Ying/Luo Yu. Two other Chinese pairs also made the last-eight. Tian Qing/Tang Jinhua and Zhao Yunlei/Zhong Qianxin made the last-eight with straight games wins.
In Mixed Doubles, Denmark’s Joachim Fischer Nielsen and Christinna Pedersen run into the pair they’ve never beaten in five matches: Liu Cheng/Bao Yixin (China). Fischer and Pedersen weathered a difficult first game against Korea’s Lee Yong Dae/Lee So Hee but finished on a dominant note: 25-23 21-16. No.3 seeds Tontowi Ahmad/Liliyana Natsir (Indonesia) also made the quarter-finals, where they face Korea’s Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na.