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Monday, 28 May 2018 | MYT 12:00 AM

Joo-bong’s gamble to split Japan’s doubles pair almost pays off

JAPAN’s head coach Park Joo-bong took a gamble by splitting the men’s doubles pair and it almost worked.

Scratch pair Keigo Sonoda-Yuta Watanabe gave their all but it was not enough to beat world No. 4 Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen as they went down fighting 21-17, 19-21, 20-22 in a thriller yesterday.

Sonoda-Watanabe slumped on the court as the Chinese camp broke into celebration after defeating Japan 3-1 in the Thomas Cup final.

Japan won the first point through Kento Momota but dropped two through Kenta Nishimoto and Takuto Inoue-Yuki Kaneko in the respective singles and doubles ties.

Although the men failed to make it a double joy as the Japanese women had won the Uber Cup a day ago, Joo-bong was happy that his players gave a fighting display on yesterday’s final.

“Our doubles players have not played well in previous matches and we had to do something to stand a chance against China,” said Joo-bong.

He split world No. 6 Takeshi Kamura-Sonoda by teaming up Sonoda with Watanabe and dropping Kamura.

“Kento did his part to win the first point and I’m very happy with his performance. He did not drop a single match throughout this Finals,” said Joo-bong.

“We were hoping for the second doubles to steal one point and they almost did. I’m happy with their fighting spirit.

“We came with the aim of reaching the semi-finals, instead the men made it to the final,” he said.

Joo-bong said Japan had improved over the last two years because of the players’ commitment.

Japan have more depth in the men and women’s teams with equal strength in the singles and doubles departments.

“There have been good results from Japan in both the singles and doubles. It’s all because of the players’ motivation. I’ve a dedicated lot – they’re hard working. The level of motivation in the training camp is high.”

With strong showings in the Thomas and Uber Cup Finals, Japan have put themselves as medal contenders in all events at the July World Championships in Nanjing, China, and the Asian Games in Indonesia in August.