In the last two years, the Koreans have won 11 of their 19 duels (58 per cent win rate) against Japanese opponents, with three of their four HSBC BWF World Tour titles in a pre-pandemic 2019 coming after final victories over pairs from the neighbouring country.
“It would have been great if that title turned into an Olympic gold,” Kim, 28, jokingly told Yonhap News Agency recently. “But it’s always nice to hear people say we play well against Japan.”
After a lull caused by cancelled competitions last year, 2019’s BWF Most Improved Players returned at the Asian Leg in January to win the TOYOTA Thailand Open.
Since going home, they have been sparring against men’s pairs in preparation for Tokyo 2020, where they hope to end their country’s 29-year wait for a women’s doubles gold – Korea have not toasted Olympic champions since Chung So Young and Hwang Hye Young at Barcelona 92.
Though Kim/Kong have a 4-3 head-to-head against Matsumoto/Nagahara, they have won three of the most recent duels against the two-time world champions.
“We have more confidence against them than the No.1s (Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota),” admitted Kim, whose record against the other Japanese partnership stands at 1-4.
“Fukushima and Hirota are so tough to play. We’ve had a full-game battle against them. Fukushima covers a lot of ground for her partner.”
Kong, four years Kim’s junior, is more upbeat about facing Fukushima/Hirota.
“We’re just going to play our game. We want to be aggressive,” she said.
“We don’t say much. We can tell how the other is feeling just by looking at each other’s eyes. I’m not much of a talker but when I sense So-yeong getting nervous, I make sure to talk to her.”
Kim added: “I try to set up opportunities for Hee-yong to attack with her strength.”
When competition kicks off at the end of this month, the world No.5s will have another shot at ‘attacking’ a Japanese duo for a medal.
“Obviously, the goal is to win gold,” Kong said.