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Defending champ marches on

Sho Sasaki (below), led six other Japanese representatives into the semi-finals of the Yonex Australian open on Friday.

The defending champion in the men’s singles event outlasted a determined Taufik Hidayat in straight games to book a semi-final date with Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Minh.

Sasaki, who beat Malaysian veteran Wong Choong Hann in last year’s final, a result which gave his confidence a boost and eventually helped him to break into the top 10 in the world ranking.

Against Taufik on Friday, Sasaki was his usual calm self as he carved out a 21-11, 22-20 victory. Tien Minh was in complete control as he outplayed another Indonesian, Alamsyah Yunus 21-9, 21-6.

There was some good news for Indonesia as two-time SEA Games champion Simon Santoso reached the last four where he will meet 2010 world champion and top seed Chen Jin.

In the quarter-finals, Simon survived a scare from seventh seeded South Korean Shon Wan Ho before winning 21-15, 12-21, 21-10, while Chen Jin edged unseeded Japanese shuttler Takuma Ueda 21-17, 21-19.

Besides Sasaki, Japan will also have Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa (men’s doubles), Ai Goto (women’s singles), Miyuki Maeda-Satoko Suetsuna and Shizuka Matsuo-Mami Naito (women’s doubles), Shintaro Ikeda-Reiko Shiota and Kenichi Hayakawa-Misaki Matsutomo (mixed doubles) contesting Saturday’s semi-final matches.

Ikeda-Shiota will meet Malaysia's Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (left), for a place in the final.

China, Taipei and Indonesia will have three representatives in the semi-finals with South Korea two and Malaysia and Vietnam one each.

In the men’s doubles, Olympic and Asian champions Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan scored an important psychological blow ahead of next week’s Axiata Cup finals when they defeated compatriots and rivals Alvent Yulianto Chandra-Hendra Aprida Gunawan 21-15, 21-15.

They will next meet Angga Pratama-Ryan Agung Saputra, who upset second seeds Hirokatsu Hashimoto-Noriyasu Hirata 19-21, 21-17, 21-19.

Alvent-Hendra and Angga-Ryan are all on Team Indonesia Rajawali and will face Markis-Hendra’s Team Indonesia Garuda in the inaugural Axiata Cup finals next weekend. The Axiata Cup is the world’s richest badminton team championship with US$1 million in prize money.

Meanwhile, Chinese qualifier Han Li made it to the women’s semi-finals when she defeated three-time world junior champion Porntip Buranaprasertsuk 20-22, 21-15, 21-15.

For full results, click here.

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