Wang Zhiyi’s heroics saved the day for China today after the defending champions were one point away from a stunning upset at the TOTAL BWF World Junior Championships 2018 in Markham, Canada.
The Youth Olympic Games (YOG) silver medallist fought out of a hole, faced with two match points against Japan’s Hirari Mizui with her team 1-2 down. It was her nerveless play through some marathon rallies at the end that saw her edge Mizui, who too showed tremendous courage in fighting a rearguard battle all through the third game, closing up big deficits and getting to within one point of a historic victory. At the death, with Mizui stonewalling all that Wang threw at her, the Chinese conjured two hairpin netshots, both of which Mizui could only helplessly flail her racket at.
Mizui’s loss meant that Japan’s title drought at the World Juniors continues, while China made their fifth straight final. China have 12 titles, including all four since 2014.
The other semifinal wasn’t as close, with Korea overpowering Indonesia 3-1.
Japan did nearly everything right. Hiroki Midorikawa and Natsu Saito provided the early breakthrough in Mixed Doubles, fighting past Guo Xinwa and Liu Xuanxuan 17-21 23-21 21-12.
Then followed an epic battle between YOG champion Li Shifeng and YOG bronze medallist Kodai Naraoka. The third game saw interminable rallies, with neither able to penetrate the other’s defence. At times, so exhausted were both protagonists that they could barely move, sending high clears and hoping for mistakes from the other side. Naraoka, who received treatment for cramps, finally crossed the line after a marathon 90 minutes, 21-12 19-21 21-18.
China, 0-2 down, reduced the deficit through Men’s Doubles pair Di Zijian/Wang Chang, who beat Hiroki Midorikawa/Hiroki Nakayama in straight games.
What followed was the most memorable bout of the tournament, with Hirari Mizui coming to within a heartbeat of a famous win. But her rival was just too stubborn on the day, and Mizui could only watch helplessly as Japan’s Women’s Doubles duo Shiena Fukumoto/Natsu Saito went down tamely, 21-13 21-15, to Liu Xuanxuan/Xia Yuting.
“I didn’t think too much, I was just very focussed,” Wang Ziyi said. “The most important thing was that my mind had to be calm at the end. My netgame is my strength, it’s something I have worked on. During the group matches, I was tired, but because of the pressure today I didn’t think about the tiredness. I made the turning point for China, so I’m very happy.”
Korea, meanwhile, weathered Indonesia’s challenge 3-1.
The pivotal point was the first, with both Men’s Doubles pairs equally matched. Shin Tae Yang and Wang Chan kept their wits about them at 17-all in the third and took Korea to victory over Leo Rolly Carnando/Daniel Marthin, 21-18 16-21 21-17.
Park Ga Eun made it 2-0, winning her Women’s Singles over Putri Kusuma Wardhini 21-18 21-18, before Indonesia were revived by Leonardo Rumbay, who took just 39 minutes to beat Jeong U Min.
Korea’s Women’s Doubles duo of Jang Eun Seo/Lee Jung Hyun proved too strong for Febriana Dwipuji Kusuma/Ribka Sugiarto, 21-19 21-17, to give Korea a shot at a third Mixed Team title.
“We finished our team’s victory, it’s our biggest moment. We were really nervous in the early stages of the first game, so we didn’t play our style. We could get our confidence only in the second game and that’s we played well,” said Jang Eun Seo.