RIO DE JANEIRO – Japan’s top seeds Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi overcame some early nerves to claim a 2-0 win Thursday in the Rio Games women’s badminton doubles.
Making their Olympic debut, Matsutomo and Takahashi defeated India’s Jwala Gutta and Ashwini Ponnappa 21-15, 21-10 in their Group A opener.
Playing an early-morning match in a nearly empty arena, the Indian pair held a three-point lead early in the first game, but were simply unable to score points when serving against the Japanese duo.
“I was nervous early on, but slowly I was able to do what I needed to,” the 24-year-old Matsutomo said. “I’m relieved to have won our first match.”
Her partner, however, said her first taste of Olympic competition proved less frightening than expected.
“What with the Olympics atmosphere and all, I thought I’d be more nervous, but I was relatively relaxed,” the 26-year-old Takahashi said. “We might not have been playing at 100 percent of our ability, but we were able to play our kind of game.”
Japan’s mixed doubles pair of Ayane Kurihara and Kenta Kazuno had to work a little harder for their 2-0 victory as they dispatched the Netherlands’ Jacco Arends and Selena Piek 21-14, 21-19.
“While thinking of advancing (to the championship round), I was extremely nervous in this crucial first game,” Kurihara said.
In men’s doubles, the eighth-ranked pair of Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa made it a clean sweep for Japan on the day, overcoming China’s Chai Biao and Hong Wei 21-18, 14-21, 23-21.
“It gives us courage when the crowd gets excited. The cheers gave us a boost,” Endo said. “They are No. 5 in the world and above us in the rankings, so this win is huge.”