By Michael Angelo S. Murillo
Senior Reporter

INITIALLY in peril to get going over concerns on the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), the 2020 Badminton Asia Manila Team Championships successfully concluded its six-day run at the weekend with Indonesia and Japan retaining their respective titles.

Took place from Feb. 11 to 16 at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum, Badminton Asia Manila reached the end point with deserving winners after having to go through a redraw of groupings prior to the start of the tournament with teams like China and Hong Kong having to abandon their bids because of the COVID-19.

To date there is still a travel ban imposed on said country by the Philippine government to avert the further spread of the highly contagious respiratory disease.

Wuhan in Hubei province in China is the ground zero of COVID-19, with the disease having spread to other parts of China and the world, including the Philippines.

Indonesia and Japan ruled their respective divisions in the 2020 Badminton Asia Manila Team Championships, with the former winning its third straight men’s title and the latter taking the women’s crown anew.

Indonesia defeated regional rival Malaysia, 3-1, in the finale of the men’s joust on Sunday.

Mohammad Ahsan and Fajar Alfian powered their team to the title, clinching the match-winning set.

The two shook off Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi in the first game of the second doubles match, 21-18, before taking control of the second, 21-17, to take the tie and keep Indonesia’s place at the top of the biennial meet.

World number five player Anthony Ginting got the winning going for Indonesia but not after having made to sweat by Lee Zii Jia in the opening frame, 22-20.

He then took firmer control of the second set, winning, 21-16, to hand Indonesia a 1-0 lead.

The Indonesian tandem of Marcus Gideon and Kevin Sakamuljo made it a 2-0 lead for their squad after taking down Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik, 22-20, 21-16.

Malaysia got the break in the third match care of Cheam June Wei, who shook off several title-clinching points from reigning Asian Games gold medalist Jonatan Christie, taking the deciding frame to keep Malaysia in the battle, 21-16, 17-21, 24-22.

It was short-lived though as Messrs. Ahsan and Alfian went for the closeout the following set.

The Indonesian men’s doubles tandem of Mohammad Ahsan and Fajar Alfian powered their team to the title at the Badminton Asia Manila Team Championships. — BADMINTON ASIA

“We are very happy and now we’re focused on the next Thomas Cup,” said Mr. Alfian, the second-ranked doubles player in the world, referring to the 2020 Thomas Cup in Aarhus, Denmark, later this year where they qualified for after topping the Manila team championships.

They will be joined at the Thomas Cup by runner-up Malaysia and bronze winners Japan and Korea.

The Philippines reached the quarterfinals of the men’s tournament before losing to Indonesia, 3-0.

Meanwhile, Japan sustained its dominant run on the women’s side, sweeping Korea, 3-0, in the finals earlier on Sunday.

Singles player Sayaka Takahashi stepped up once more and brought Japan its second consecutive title by stopping Sung Ji Hyun, 21-16, 21-12, in the third set, which turned out to be the final one for the match.

Former world number one player Akane Yamaguchi was first to plunge into action for Japan and encountered some trouble before holding on to win, 21-18, 19-21, 23-21, to put Japan on the board after the opening singles match.

Then Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota later fended off Lee Seo Hee and Shin Seung Chan in the lone doubles match to put the eventual champions at the 2-0 lead, 21-16, 21-16.

“I was very confident that we can be champions with this team,” Ms. Takahashi shared. Adding, “I’m happy that we became champions. It was a good experience for the next ones to come.”

Next for Japan is the 2020 Uber Cup scheduled from May 16 to 24 in Aarhus, Denmark.

It will be joined there by Korea and bronze winners Malaysia and Thailand.

The Philippine women’s team finished last in the Manila tournament but was grateful still for the opportunity to compete with some of the best teams in the world where it learned valuable lessons which it could use moving forward.

The Badminton Asia Manila Team Championships was organized by the Philippine Badminton Association and was backed by Smart Communications Inc., MVP Sports Foundation, Leisure and Resorts World Corp., Cignal and TV5.