• Kyodo


Combining touch, precision and power, Japan’s Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo completed a clean sweep of their women’s doubles badminton Group A on Saturday at the Rio Games.

The top-seeded pair defeated the Dutch team of Eefje Muskens and Selena Piek 21-9, 21-11. Both pairs entered the match having already clinched a spot in the quarterfinals.

As they had in their previous two matches, Takahashi and Matsutomo dominated on their serves, scoring 25 points with the shuttlecock in hand as opposed to just three for their opponents.

“Day by day our game sense has gotten better. But as we go further, every pair we compete against will be strong,” Matsutomo said.

“I’m looking forward to going out and competing and seeing how far we can go.”

Ayane Kurihara and her partner Kenta Kazuno lost a tough match against No. 2 mixed doubles seeds Ko Sung-hyun and Kim Ha-na of South Korea 25-23, 21-17. Although they suffered Japan’s first defeat in badminton, the pair’s 2-1 record booked them a spot in the quarterfinals.

“The Japan (badminton) team had been winning, and we didn’t want to break that run,” Kazuno said.

The high point of the match for the Japanese came in the first game. After they trailed 19-14, Kurihara scored five straight points to tie it. Kurihara and Kazuno fended off two game points to tie it at 20-20 and 21-21. But Ko and Kim got their own back by fighting off two game points as Ko scored three straight to clinch it.

The Japanese lost the first two points in the second game and never caught up.

“There were too many easy mistakes, but overall we played well,” Kurihara said. “Seeded competitors are losing in many events, so we are going to try hard in the (knockout) tournament.”

Japan’s Sho Sasaki got his men’s singles effort off the ground with a 2-1 win over Petr Koukal of the Czech Republic. Sasaki, a beaten quarterfinalist at the 2012 London Games, suffered a scare when Koukal overcame a four-point deficit to take the second game but held on for a 21-10, 16-21, 21-12 victory.

On Sunday, Sasaki will finish Group I play against Britain’s 13th seed Rajiv Ouseph.


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