(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Piek/ Seinen mix it up with the best in the world
Date: 3/20/2021 5:35 PM
Published by : Yash Sharma

Following the retirement of Ayaka Takahashi, Yuki Fukushima/ Sayaka Hirota and Mayu Matsumoto/ Wakana Nagahara are clearly the top two Japanese pairs in the women’s doubles. On semifinals day in the Utilita Arena Birmingham, they once again demonstrated why they are the best in the world.

Playing against yet another European pair, the Japanese World number ones had a slow start once again.

- Actually, we couldn't move well in the beginning. We struggled to receive the cross-court shots from the opponents, but we stayed calm and stuck to our game plan. It's our fault that we started slow and nothing to do with the court conditions, Fukushima admitted.

However, Fukushima/Hirota quickly found form. Once they got their momentum going, the Dutch opposition of Selena Piek/ Cheryl Seinen had little to no answers. The match was over in 50 minutes: 21-17, 21-7.

Positive takeaways for the Dutch

- We started really well and we weren't making any mistakes, which gave us a lot of confidence. It was going to be tough to score points, but we were very disciplined in doing so. We are quite happy about the first game, there were very long rallies. In the second game, they showed their class and we made many unforced errors, Piek offered her analysis.

- They played quite hard at the front of the court. So, we tried to play it to the back and then, short again. However, they had a lot of power and were playing really good overheads, Seinen added.

The Dutch took away lots of positives from their first major semifinal appearance. Moreover, they had high regard for their opponents.

- If you told us beforehand that we would reach the semifinal of the All England, I would have definitely signed up for it! I think it shows that we can play with the best, but we need to be physically and mentally stronger to give them an even tougher fight next time, Piek was positive.

An all-Japanese semifinal

In the other women’s doubles semifinal, an evidently close score line of 21-19, 21-17 barely does justice to the supreme control the two-time defending world champions asserted throughout the proceedings. Matsumoto/ Nagahara never gave up the lead to their upcoming junior compatriots Nami Matsuyama/ Chiharu Shida.

- We played better today compared to yesterday's match. Our tactics during the long rallies weren't very good, so we have to fix that for tomorrow, Matsumoto observed.

Both pairs agreed that they knew each other’s game really well.

- We know each other's games really well since we trained together. We were expecting long rallies, so we focused on our game to avoid giving them any chances and that worked today, Nagahara noted.

Shida even offered a detailed breakdown of their gameplay.

- We didn't feel the shuttles were flying because of the drift. In that situation, we felt we weren't strong enough to receive well. We wanted to use the entire court. Their front court shots were too quick to receive. We couldn't keep our composure and we made mistakes and that's why we lost. We like to play quick games but when our opponents played fast at the net, we needed to move back to receive. As a result, we couldn't play our normal game.

No surprise finalists

The top two seeds will contest the title match tomorrow. Indeed, the two pairs have given us some epic matches in the past, especially the World Championships finals in 2018 and 2019. Given a close head-to-head record, there is no clear favourite in a repeat of the last year’s Denmark Open final.

- This is our second All England Open final. We didn't win the last time [against Chen Qingchen/ Jia Yifan in 2019], so we will definitely try to win tomorrow. The All England is one of the most prestigious tournaments and it is one of our goals to win here, Matsumoto was determined.

- It's an honour to reach the final and so, we'd like to enjoy the match, Hirota was poised.

With Fukushima/ Hirota trying to win a consecutive All England trophy, the fans will be in for a treat with another long and exciting thriller.




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