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Olympics: Watanabe, Higashino beaten in badminton mixed doubles semis

Yuta Watanabe, right, and Arisa Higashino of Japan play in the semifinals of the Tokyo Olympic badminton mixed doubles on July 29, 2021, at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza. (Kyodo)

TOKYO (Kyodo) -- Japan's Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino suffered semifinal heartbreak on Thursday as they were overpowered by Chinese pair Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping in the badminton mixed doubles at the Tokyo Games.

    Watanabe and Higashino, the first Japanese pair to reach the last four of the event at the Olympics, took the opening game but the second-seeded Chinese rallied to reach the final thanks to a 21-23, 21-15, 21-14 win at Musashino Forest Sport Plaza.

    Wang and Huang will play compatriots and top seeds Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong, who defeated Hong Kong's Tang Chun-man and Tse Ying-suet 21-16, 21-12. Watanabe and Higashino will face Tang and Tse in the bronze medal match.

    "Our opponents simply played better than we did," said Watanabe. "But there is no time to reflect as we have another match coming up. For now, we just have to get prepared for that."

    Higashino said, "Our opponents were determined not to lose the match as well and (after winning the opening game) we allowed them opportunities to attack and increasingly put us on the back foot."

    Watanabe and Higashino won the bronze medal at the 2019 world championships in Switzerland and will be aiming to replicate that feat in their next match on Friday.

    It turned out to be a bad day all round for Watanabe as he and Hiroyuki Endo were eliminated from the men's doubles competition, the fourth seeds losing 21-16, 21-19 to Taiwan's Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin in the quarterfinals.

    Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda also exited the last eight after going down 21-14, 16-21, 21-9 to second seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.

    In women's singles action, 2019 world silver medalist Nozomi Okuhara reached the quarterfinals and was joined in the last eight by compatriot Akane Yamaguchi.

    Okuhara downed Canada's Michelle Li 21-9, 21-7, while Yamaguchi also scored a straight-games win, beating South Korea's Kim Gae Un 21-17, 21-18.

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