Nanning, May 20 : Top-ranked Japan defeated Russia 3-2 with top-ranked Kento Momota absent in the men's singles in their Group 1A opener at the ongoing Sudirman Cup in south China's Nanning on Monday.
Japan, one of the favorites for the crown, won the opening mixed doubles through Takuro Hoki, the Korea Open 2018 champion and Wakana Nagahara, the World Championships 2018 women's doubles winner, who beat Russian pair of Rodion Alimov and Alina Davletova 21-10, 21-15.
After Russia took the following men's singles and men's doubles matches for a 2-1 lead, Japan regained its upperhand by winning the women's singles and women's doubles to seal the victory.
"We were both kind of nervous at first, yet we adjusted well and overall played to our level," said Nagahara, while Hoki tips China as the strongest among all great teams, saying "the goal we made for the Sudirman Cup is to defeat China."
The 63rd-ranked Vladimir Malkov upset the 10th-ranked Kenta Nishimoto 21-18, 21-17 in the men's singles after 50 minutes, and Russia overtook the lead as All England Open 2016 winners Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov overcame Hiroyuki Endo, winner of Badminton Asia Championships 2019 and Yuta Watanabe, winner of All England Open 2018 21-19, 21-16 in the men's doubles.
"We have played many times with them and it's a fifty-fifty match. We played well and nearly performed to our best," said Sozonov.
As for the performance of his teammate Malkov, Sozonov admitted that "it's a surprise for us. It must be an unforgettable match for him. But to play badmiton, everything can happen. Japan didn't send their best player in the men's singles, maybe they made a mistake. Today all of our players played well, we deserve the win."
In the women's singles, Nozomi Okuhara, the winner of BWF World Championships 2017 broke Russia's winning streak with an easy victory over the 101st-ranked Natalia Perminova 21-6, 21-16.
Japan then recorded its eventual win in the women's doubles as the 2nd-ranked Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota beat Ekaterina Bolotova and Alina Davletova 21-5, 21-16.
Japan will play its last group rival Thailand on Wednesday while Russia meets Thailand on Tuesday, with the top two teams advancing to the quarterfinals.
The eight-day Sudirman Cup 2019 kicked off on Sunday, with 31 countries and regions participating in the biennial world mixed team championship.