The prospect of an all-Japan final in the BWF World Tour Finals women's singles category is still alive as both Akane Yamaguchi and Nozomi Okuhara have made it to the semis and would be facing Chen Yu Fei and Tai Tzu Ying respectively on Saturday.
Okuhara finished atop her group by winning her final first round match on day 3 against Ratchanok Intanon 21-14, 21-12. The Thai player made a good start to her tournament by defeating her compatriot Busanan Ongbamrungphan but suffered a defeat on day 2 against Tai Tzu Ying.
The 2017 World Champion would now face Tai again for a spot in the final. The Chinese Taipei player had an easy time getting the better of Busanan in her final group stage match with the scoreline of 21-14, 21-9. The impressive shot-play of Tai was far more than what the Thai player could handle.
Now, Okuhara and Tai would face each other in what promises to be a thrilling encounter. They went up against each other in their very first match of the tournament and Tai gave up an advantageous position to concede the match.
Once again, it would be a contest between the wizardry of Tai and the tenacity of Okuhara. The biggest weakness in the Taiwanese player's game is her tendency to become a bit loose with her shot-making at times. It was this very weakness that cost her the match against Okuhara. She now has an opportunity to correct that mistake.
In the other group, Chen Yu Fei continued her winning run as she defeated Akane Yamaguchi in straight games 21-14, 21-10. But these two would play each other again on Saturday, this time with a lot more than momentum at stake. While Chen is a good all-round player, Yamaguchi is also known, like her compatriots, for great retrieving skills. She also has good net play and smashes.
But Chen would have one big advantage over her opponent â the home crowd. Being the only Chinese left in the draw of this division, she would receive the full-throated support of the spectators.
The other two ladies in the group, PV Sindhu and He Bing Jiao played out a two-game match where the World Champion was able to salvage some pride with a clear-cut victory. Interestingly, Bing Jiao was leading 18-9 in the first game but then conceded nine straight points to allow her opponent to get back to parity.
Sindhu then became fluent in her play and won the match without much difficulty. It was a strange turnaround which suggested that Bing Jiao's problem of not delivering the finishing touches continues to trouble her.