Japanese women’s team gold defence left shaky after Yamaguchi’s withdrawal

Akane Yamaguchi of Japan hits a return against Zhang Yiman of China in their women痴 singles final match of the Hong Kong Open badminton tournament in Hong Kong on September 17, 2023. (Photo by Peter PARKS / AFP)

JAPAN’s bid to defend the women’s team gold in the Asian Games was dealt a cruel blow after top singles shuttler Akane Yamaguchi was struck down by injury.

World No. 2 Yamaguchi was forced to withdraw from her match against Taiwan’s Tai Tzu-ying in the quarter-finals between the two countries with the scores at 14-21, 7-5 at the Binjiang Gymnasium yesterday.

The two-time world champion had appeared to hurt her right leg in the second game and tried to continue playing after receiving treatment but had to throw in the towel.

Although Japan went on to win the tie 3-1, Yamaguchi’s injury is still a blow.

The points for Japan were delivered by doubles pairs Nami Matsuyama-Chiharu Shida and Yuki Fukushima-Arisa Higashino and Aya Ohori in the singles.

The Japanese though face a tough task against hosts China in the last four today and Yamaguchi’s absence is set to be strongly felt.

Yamaguchi also looks highly likely to miss out on the individual event which is set to be held from Oct 2-7.

It is a cruel blow for the Japanese after she had come into the Asiad in good form, having captured the Hong Kong Open title earlier in the month.

She will be the second high-profile player missing from the tournament after Thailand’s world No. 8 and 2013 world champion Ratchanok Intanon was also ruled out after suffering an ankle injury in the Hong Kong tourney.

Meanwhile, China, who had to settle for silver in the 2018 Jakarta Games after losing to Japan in the final, were in formidable form when they ousted Indonesia 3-0 in another last-eight clash.

Reigning Olympic champion Chen Yufei and world No. 5 He Bingjiao delivered the points in the singles while four-time world champions Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan won in the doubles.

In other matches, Thailand and South Korea secured 3-0 wins over India and Maldives respectively to set up a last- four clash with each other.

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