Yukiko Takahata, Ayako Sakuramoto - Krish Majumder for Badminton NZ


Sayaka Takahashi – Luke Lee for Badminton NZ

The number one seed Sayaka Takahashi (JPN) took a while to kick into gear in her semifinal at the Barfoot & Thompson NZ Open, but when the 25 year old found her groove, her game was too strong for number four seed and compatriot Minatsu Mitani.

The underdog took the first game 21-17 but was no match for the world number 11 from that point, with Takahashi winning the next two 21-12, 21-11 in just under an hour.

“I was prepared to play a really long game today so from the start and I was pleased to finish very strongly. After losing the first game, in my mind I was in trouble, but I changed those thoughts to think only of winning. I was being careful to aim for the right shots at the right time and waiting for my opponent to be out of position,” said Takahashi.

Takahashi does not know a great deal about her opponent, Zhang Yiman (CHN) in tomorrow’s final.

“I have never played against Yiman, but I must look to keep the rallies long and make sure my shots go in consistently.”

Sayaka Takahashi (JPN) (1) def Minatsu Mitani (JPN) (4), 17-21, 21-12, 21-11

At the same time as Takahashi was winning her way to the final, so too did Japanese doubles pairing Ayako Sakuramoto and Yukiko Takahata (JPN), as they defeated another Japanese pairing in Arisa Higashino and Kie Nakanishi in straight games.

“We prepared for a long match so we were surprised that it was so short, but we are nevertheless it was still a hard match,” said Sakuramoto.

“The opponents were playing quite flat, so we had to play a little higher and try not to keep that pace up, if we had followed that speed of game, we might have lost,” said Takahata.

The unseeded Japanese combination will play Cao Ton Wei and Yu Zheng (CHN) in tomorrow’s (Sunday) final.

Ayako Sakuramoto and Yukiko Takahata (JPN) def Arisa Higashino and Kie Nakanishi (JPN), 21-16, 21-9