Stepping Up in Tokyo – Japan Para Badminton International 2019

Japan’s Standing Upper (SU5) women’s singles world No.1 Ayako Suzuki is constantly working to improve her footwork which she believes is 80 percent of her overall ability to play her best.

“I think my problem is footwork. I struggle to keep up and move for the rallies, especially if the opponent is fast and can return all my shots like today,” said Suzuki, after defeating Indonesia’s Rahayu Warining 21-4 21-5 on Day 3 of the HULIC DAIHATSU Japan Para Badminton International 2019.

Suzuki, who is also No.1 in the Race to Tokyo rankings and the top seed here this week, is the favourite for the win but her toughest obstacles are China’s Yang Qiuxia and the very determined Cathrine Rosengren of Denmark.

Apart from her footwork, however, Suzuki seems to have an edge over the rest where the venue conditions of the Yoyogi Gymnasium are concerned.

“I’m feeling generally good here. On the first day, I had problems with the atmosphere and the courts. I’ve got used to it now although when I look up, sometimes the bright lights make me dizzy but I think it does the same to the other player so I plan to take advantage of that against my opponents.”

Sagoy has big plans to make it to Tokyo 2020.

Another athlete stepping up her training will be Norway’s Helle Sofie Sagoy, seeded first in the Standing Lower (SL4) women’s singles category.

Sagoy had no trouble reaching the semifinals after she defeated Olivia Meier of Canada 21-10 21-13, and in the absence of world champion Leani Ratri Oktila of Indonesia, Sagoy’s chances of winning here are high unless China’s Cheng Hefang gets in her way.

“I don’t feel any pressure here. In the last year, I think I’ve got closer to the best players but after this tournament, I’ll be working on more strength training to be able to play more matches. I’ll be looking to collect more qualifying points for the Paralympics and get a better ranking position,” she said.

Coombs is raring to go.

No Small Task

“They are all younger and physically more fit than me, and it’s getting harder each time, especially since we’re getting closer to the Paralympics. All I have to rely on is experience and skill,” said 44-year-old Didin Taresoh of Malaysia.

Taresoh advanced to the Short Stature (SH6) men’s singles quarterfinals after his wins against Korea’s Lee Daesung 21-19 21-18, and 14-year-old Miles Krajewski of the USA, 21-17 21-15.

Next he takes on a confident Krysten Coombs of England who defeated Luo Guangliang of China, 21-9 21-13.

The England team have been in Japan for one week. “As always, when you travel you need to adjust to the different times and find your rhythm but you get used to it. I’m good with these regular changes so I’m feeling great,” said Coombs.

Match of the Day

Japan’s Ikumi Fuke and Ria Ogura battled it out with China’s Xu Tingting and Zhang Jing for 56 minutes before succumbing 20-22 24-22 21-16 in the women’s doubles Wheelchair (WH1-2)

“It’s very disappointing because we felt good in the first game but when we lost the second, it was difficult to come back. The Chinese girls were mentally stronger and they pushed us really hard,” said Ogura.

The Japanese looked set to take the decider if they had held on to their early lead, but after the Chinese equalised at 15-15, there was no turning back.

“I felt that I was being attacked more and I think I am the reason we lost because I tried to push back and hold them off as much as I could but it did not work,” said Fuke.

Zhang and Xu will take on another Japanese pair Sarina Satomi and Yuma Yamazaki in the seminfinals on Saturday.

China’s Xu and Zhang threaten Japan’s domination of women’s wheelchair doubles.

Quote of the Day

“I felt good today, better than yesterday when I just had a bad day. I’m always happy playing in Japan and I like this hall and the loud cheering. In my class [Standing Upper SU5] I think Cheah [Liek Hou of Malaysia] will be tougher to play against than Suryo [Nugroho of Indonesia] but I love the way the Indonesians play badminton.” – Meril Loquette of France.

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