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Asian Games: Japan's Matsutomo-Takahashi lose badminton doubles final

Misaki Matsutomo, left, and her partner Ayaka Takahashi celebrate after they placed second in the women's doubles at the Asian Games, in Jakarta, Indonesia, on Aug. 27, 2018. (Kyodo)

JAKARTA (Kyodo) -- Misaki Matsutomo and her partner Ayaka Takahashi failed in their bid to become the first Japanese women to win Asian Games singles or doubles gold in 48 years, falling 2-0 to Chinese pair Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan in the doubles badminton final on Monday.

Despite rallying in the second game to stave off a number of match points, the Japanese duo lost their second consecutive Asian Games doubles final, this one 22-20, 22-20 at GBK Istora Arena in Jakarta.

The Olympic champions said despite the loss, they were satisfied with their fight against the powerhouse Chinese.

"It has been a while since I saw such a strong Chinese team," said Takahashi. "But we did not play badly, it is progress that we could fight back against a Chinese pair in top form."

Matsutomo said, "It's frustrating, but I thought we should play more and more close matches so that we will improve."

The Olympic champions had their chances, with two game points in the first stanza, but the Chinese players proved too resilient in the big moments.

The pair had helped Japan win the title in the team competition last Wednesday. The gold was Japan's first in this event in the Asian Games since 1970 and the nation's first badminton gold since 1998.

"This tournament was surely a good one that will lead to the future," Takahashi said. "Although there were things I regretted compared to four years ago, but I could play my game."

Earlier, Japan's Akane Yamaguchi earned bronze in the women's badminton singles and Kenta Nishimoto did the same in the men's, becoming the first Japanese man to medal in singles since the 1970 games.

Yamaguchi, ranked second in the world, fought back from a first-game deficit against world No. 3 and Rio Olympic silver medalist V. Sindhu Pusarla of India, but crashed in the decider, losing 21-17, 15-21, 21-10, in their semifinal.

"I guess it is good I won a medal but I am not at all satisfied," Yamaguchi said. "In the final game, I wanted to earn points through big rallies, but I was a bit too slow going into the game. The point difference started to widen more than I thought."

Pusarla said she really had to battle to get the win. "The third game was important for both of us today because each point counted...You just had to fight for every point," she said.

Yamaguchi also played in Japan's 3-1 team final victory against China.

In his men's singles semifinal, Nishimoto gave up a six-point lead in his first game against Indonesia's Jonatan Christie, but ran away with the second to stay alive.

After a hard-fought decider, the match went in favor of the home favorite 21-15, 15-21, 21-19, as Nishimoto also picked up his second medal of the games.

"What a waste. I'm just frustrated," said Nishimoto, the first Japanese man to win bronze since Ippei Kojima in 1970. "I was rushed to get points. I was so eager for the points toward the end of the final game and I became heated up and lost my composure."

"But experiencing this kind of match many times will ultimately make me stronger."

Christie beat world No. 2 and top seed Shi Yuqi en route to the final, and handed Nishimoto a straight-games loss last Tuesday in the men's team semifinal as Japan won bronze after a 3-1 defeat against eventual silver medalist Indonesia.

"Kenta played pretty well," said Christie. "He played with nothing to lose and managed to play all out. He really was able to do his strategy properly."

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