By Neha Aggarwal
Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling vs Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato:
The day started off with women’s doubles semi finals, top seeds Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling versus fourth seeded pair of Honoka Hashimoto and Hitomi Sato. Both Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling were victims of Miu Hirano’s magic in the singles yesterday, and thus today, they seemed to be way too determined to overcome the Japanese.
With no surprises, they proved to be very strong against the defensive skills of the Japanese and beat them in straight games 11-9, 11-5, 11-8.
The strategy was simple for the Japanese defenders, to be more aggressive, take risks with their attacks because the Chinese were simply way too powerful in their attacks. Sato and Honoka took risks like they should have, but the margin of error while attacking was way too high.
Leading two games already, China was closer to victory at 8-6 when the Japanese coach Masamori Oshima called a time out, but did not prove too effective as the next two points went to China giving them four match points. The Japanese saved two, but after a strategic time out from Kong Linghui at 10-8, Chen Meng and Zhu Yuling won the next point and wrapped up the match 11-8 to move to the finals.
Chen Ke and Wang Manyu vs Mima Ito and Hina Hayata:
The next casualty was the second seeded pair of Mima Ito and Hina Hayata who were beaten by 18th seed Chen Ke and Wang Manyu in a similar fashion like the above, 3-0 ( 11-7, 11-9, 11-8).
Chen Ke was strong as usual with her lethal forehand attacks, all over the table and Wang Manyu’s signature safe game complimented Chen Ke well. Together, they seemed to be a great pair.
After a lead of 1-0, the Chinese took a 7-3 lead in the second game. Japan responded well by coming closer to make it 9-8 when the Chinese took a time out which proved beneficial and won 11-9. The third game was inching closer until 7-7 but after that there was no stopping Chen Ke and Wang Manyu as they finished off 11-8 to move to the finals.
It’s interesting to note that Mima Ito was not paired up alongside her traditional doubles partner Miu Hirano; together they became the youngest to win the ITTF World Tour Grand Finals in 2014. Instead it was Hina Hayata this time.
What is Japan planning? Did they want Miu Hirano to focus only on singles (a strategy which worked well)? Or are they testing new partnerships keeping Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games in mind?
Time will tell.