What an amazing women’s doubles semifinal match I witnessed in Wuhan, China at the 36th Badminton Asia Championships. It was truly incredible. It lasted 2 hours and 41 minutes (161 minutes), with a 271 shot rally! Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yanao (Japan) defeated Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii (Indonesia) 13-21, 21-19, 24-22.
Just the day before the Japanese had broken the prior World Record with a 117 minute match. After I finished commentating on court 1, which was the television court, I moved to Court 2 to watch. All the semifinal matches were finished except the World Record match. I sat in the stands for the semifinal match and all of the Japanese team was behind me. To my left Park Joo Bong, head coach. Down a row and to my right was Masuda Keita, men’s singles coach.
It was 14-14 in the third game after 2 hours and 7 minutes of play (127 minutes), clear, drop, smash, drive, net shot, again and again, attacking and defending both ways. At 14 all, a 271 shot rally that lasted 4 minutes and 55 seconds (295 seconds). What stamina, concentration and determination, Japan wins that point. Next rally 47 shots then a 13 shot rally followed by a 180 shot rally to tie it up again at 16 all. Now going on 141 minutes of play, another phenomenal 148 shot rally with Greysia Polii diving on the floor 2 times leaving Maheswari to return 7 shots each time as Polii was cramping up and slow to get up both times. Indonesia wins the rally and tie it up at 19 apiece. Maheswari putting pressure on at the net and hits the tape and doesn’t go over giving Japan match point. Half court set up for Yanao just misses Polii’s body and out the back. 20-20. Park Joo Bong playing the game with his team, yelling not loud enough for the players to hear but still telling them what to do play by play. Masuda up and down on his chair and their Japanese teammates watching and gasping with every rally. With the crowd totally into the match it’s another unreal rally, 89 shots, Polii again diving 3 times just to get the shuttlecock back, she smashes and Yanao places her defense half court and wins the point. Another match point for Japan. 154 minutes of play Maheswari with the smash winner to save another match point, 21 all. Japan takes the next point and has their 3rd match point. Yanao to serve and it is wide. 22 each, Polii also showing her exhaustion and serves wide giving the Japanese duo their 4th match point 23-22. Japan on attack, Fukuman with a half smash, Maheswari stepping into the defense, returning it just wide Japan wins the match 24-22 in 2:41minutes (161 minutes)!!
Both teams were amazing on the court and it was a thrill to watch history being made. The heart they put into the match touched the players, coaches, spectators and me as we all had tears in our eyes after such an extraordinary, epic women’s doubles match.
I love badminton!