Fit for Tokyo? Peng Soon-Liu Ying sure have some soul-searching to do


Out of gas: Peng Soon and Liu Ying lost to Japan’s Yuki Kaneko and Misaki Matsutomo 14-21,20-22 in the mixed doubles semi-final match. — AFP

PETALING JAYA: With barely four months left before the Tokyo Olympics, can the aging world No. 7 Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying whip themselves into top shape?

Peng Soon, who turns 33 next month, admitted that there is an urgency for the pair to address their lack of fitness if they are to genuinely contend for their second medal at the Tokyo Games in July. The duo are one of the frontrunners to qualify for the Games in July.

On Saturday, Peng Soon-Liu Ying suffered a shocking meltdown when they squandered a 16-4 lead in the second game to lose 14-21,20-22 to Yuki Kaneko-Misaki Matsutomo of Japan in the semi-finals of the All-England at the Arena Birmingham.

The elimination means they failed to improve on their runners-up finish in 2017. The other time they made the last four was in 2012.

Peng Soon pointed out that it was their poor fitness that let them down.

Playing three matches over two days prior to their semi-final battle, including the first two rounds on Thursday due to rescheduling, seemed to have taken its toll on Peng Soon-Liu Ying.

The Rio 0lympics silver medallists played a total of 152 minutes, including digging deep into their reserves to claim a three-game wis over Mathias Thyrri-Mai Surrow of Denmark (63 minutes) in the first round and Thom Giquel-Delphine Delrue of France in the last-eight (66 minutes).

“I’m sorry that I let everyone down. I experienced some fitness problems, ” said Peng Soon.

“The defeat means that I must accept that I have some shortcomings.

“We have to go back and train more, I think we need to improve the physical part.”

Peng Soon also apologised to the fans who stayed up in the wee hours to catch them in action.

“I’m sorry that you guys stayed up late to watch our game but we lost, ” he added.

Liu Ying, too, blamed their defeat on fatigue but stressed that it shouldn’t be an excuse.

“We’d lost a bit of focus after taking a huge lead, so when they caught up we started to feel nervous and blanked out... we couldn’t play well, ” said Liu Ying, who turns 32 in May.

“The pressure was definitely on us because we lost the first game, so we wanted to win the second game so badly, but unfortunately we didn’t perform.

“The tiredness was there, but we are used to grueling competitions like this, so we should be able to take it.”

Being one of the oldest combinations, Liu Ying had once joked that they’re the ‘uncle and aunty’ of the mixed doubles event.

But they know too that they don’t want to be the laughing stock in competitions and Peng Soon-Liu Ying are determined to find ways to be physically strong so that they can last longer on the court.

At the Olympics, it takes six matches, three in group stage and three in knockout rounds en route to the gold-medal match.

Meanwhile, Japan marked their international stage return in glorious fashion when all their six pairs dominated the doubles events, assuring them of at least three titles.

Hiroyuki Endo-Yuta Watanabe successfully defended their men’s doubles crown yesterday after beating Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda 21-15,17-21,21-11 in the final.



RESULTS

FINAL

Men’s singles: Lee Zii Jia (Mas) bt Viktor Axelsen (Den) 30-29,20-22,21-9.

Women’s singles: Nozomi Okuhara (Jpn) bt Pornpawee Chochuwong (Tha) 21-12,21-16.

Men’s doubles: Hiroyuki Endo-Yuta Watanabe (Jpn) bt Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda (Jpn) 21-15,17-21,21-11.

Women’s doubles: Mayu Matsumoto-Wakana Nagahara (Jpn) bt Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota (Jpn) 21-18,21-16.

Mixed doubles: Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (Jpn) bt Yuki Kaneko-Misaki Matsutomo (Jpn) 21-14,21-13.

SEMI-FINALS

Men’s singles: Lee Zii Jia (Mas) bt Mark Caljouw (Ned) 21-13,21-17; Viktor Axelsen (Den) bt Anders Antonsen (Den) 16-21,21-7,21-17.

Men’s doubles: Hiroyuki Endo-Yuta Watanabe (Jpn) bt Jeppe Bay-Lasse Molhede (Den) 21-13,21-11; Takeshi Kamura-Keigo Sonoda (Jpn) bt Kim Astrup-Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (Den) 21-18,21-14.

Women’s singles: Pornpawee Chochuwong (Tha) bt P. V. Sindhu (Ind) 21-17,21-9; Nozomi Okuhara (Jpn) bt Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) 16-21,21-16,21-19.

Women’s doubles: Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota (Jpn) bt Selena Piek-Cheryl Seinen (Ned) 21-17,21-7; Mayu Matsumoto-Wakana Nagahara (Jpn) bt Nami Matsuyama-Chiharu Shida (Jpn) 21-19,21-17.

Mixed doubles: Yuki Kaneko-Misaki Matsutomo (Jpn) bt Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (Mas) 21-14,22-20; Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino (Jpn) bt Marcus Ellis-Lauren Smith (Eng) 21-10,21-18.

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