• Kyodo

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Rio Olympic Games gold medalists Ayaka Takahashi and Misaki Matsutomo defeated China’s world No. 1 pair of Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan on Friday to set up an all-Japanese women’s doubles semifinal at the All England Open Badminton Championships.

The Olympic champions, currently No. 7 in the world, will meet third-ranked pair Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota in the penultimate stage of the tournament, which may have effectively become the last qualifying event for this summer’s Tokyo Games.

The Badminton World Federation announced Saturday the suspension of all sanctioned tournaments from Monday to April 12 in response to the global coronavirus pandemic.

Under existing plans, Olympic qualification is to be based on the world ranking list to be published on April 30, but the BWF is set to make a further announcement on regulations related to qualification for the Tokyo Games, which are scheduled to be held from July 24 to Aug. 9, “at a later date.”

Takahashi and Matsutomo learned about the suspension of the tour ahead of their 21-12, 20-22, 21-12 victory over the Chinese pair.

With Olympic qualification potentially on the line, Takahashi said she was determined to advance from the semifinals and leave Birmingham with the title.

“It’s gotten tense. This match could be the end of the race (for the Olympics) so I really want to finish by winning the championship,” the 29-year-old Takahashi said.

Fukushima and Hirota, who sit one place in the world rankings behind Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara, won their quarterfinal against South Korean’s Kim So-yeong and Kong Hee-yong 21-17, 23-21.

World champions Matsumoto and Nagahara fell to Chinese pair Du Yue and Li Yinhui 14-21, 21-18, 21-13 in their quarterfinal.

In the men’s doubles, world No. 6 pair Hiroyuki Endo and Yuta Watanabe reached the semifinals following a 21-19 21-18 win against the No. 2-ranked combination of Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.

A day after securing an Olympic berth, Rio bronze medalist Nozomi Okuhara booked a spot in the women’s singles round of four with a 12-21, 21-15, 21-13 win over India’s P.V. Sindhu, who took silver at the Summer Games four years ago.

Akane Yamaguchi, who will also represent Japan in women’s singles, exited the quarterfinals in a straight-sets loss to reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin of Spain.

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