Top-ranked Japan defeated Russia 3-2 in the men’s singles in their Group 1A opener at the ongoing Sudirman Cup in Nanning (China) on Monday. Japan, one of the favourites 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. They beat the Russian pair of Rodion Alimov and Alina Davletova 21-10, 21-15. After Russia won the men’s singles and men’s doubles matches for a 2-1 lead, Japan regained the upper hand by winning the women’s singles and women’s doubles to seal the victory, reports Efe news.

“We were both kind of nervous at first. But we adjusted well and played to our level,” said Nagahara. Hoki termed 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 in 50 minutes. Russia took 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 was a fifty-fifty match. We played well and nearly performed to our best,” said Sozonov. On the performance of his teammate Malkov, Sozonov said, “it’s a surprise for us. It must be an unforgettable match for him. But to play badminton, everything can happen. Japan didn’t send their best players, maybe they made a mistake. Today all of us played well and we deserved the win.”

In the women’s singles, Nozomi Okuhara, 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 second-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. The top two teams will advance 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.