15 September 2018

Canada and Sweden hit back to set up women's final duel

Homan and Hasselborg recover from nervy morning defeats to qualify for Sunday showpiece

Team Homan and Team Hasselborg made life difficult for themselves before eventually setting up a big-name women’s final at the Curling World Cup first leg in Suzhou.

At the start of the final day of group action in south-eastern China, both rinks led their respective groups with a maximum 12 points, but their smooth progress was interrupted as both lost unexpectedly early on in the day.

Team Hasselborg went down 7-2 to Japan in the morning session, a result which saw Team Fujisawa pull within three points in the group standings. “After our first two games, we’ve just focused on ice reading,” said the Japanese skip. “We’re now more relaxed, so we became better.”

In the following session, Team Homan suffered a shock to the system too, beaten 8-2 by Korea, who had failed to register a single point prior to that stunning victory.

A beaming Korean skip Minji Kim said: “Team Homan are our role models and we’ve always said we would love to play them sometime. We have been having a really hard time understanding the ice and we’ve been making so many mistakes. But in this game, we made fewer mistakes so that was the difference.”

Two sheets away, that surprise result gave Team Roth a chance to pull level atop Group B, but they passed up that opportunity by losing 8-4 to a resurgent Team Sidorova.

All that drama set up a sizzling and intriguing evening session in which four teams were in with a shout of reaching the final, with Roth and Homan facing off directly.

Team Homan’s class told in the end as they wrapped up an 8-2 victory. “It was tough conditions out there,” Homan reflected. “It’s late at night but there were a lot of shots made by both teams and thankfully we came out with a win.

”It’s the same for both teams and you’ve just got to learn the ice first. We’re excited to be in the final. It’s the first event of the year you never know how it’s going to go so we’re glad we got that last final win.|”

Two early deuces settled Team Hasselborg’s nerves as they saw off Scotland 8-1, while Japan’s 5-4 defeat to China meant the Swedes needn’t have worried in any case.

Anna Hasselborg threw her team shirt to two grateful fans in the crowd and said: “We were not happy with how we played at all this morning [in losing to Japan] but the Fujisawa team are one of the best in the world so if you're not playing your best you'll probably lose. Tonight we played very, very well and controlled the scoreboard so I'm very happy.”

Scotland’s Team Muirhead, minus their titular skip due to her hip injury, finished level with China on six points in Group A, beating the hosts 10-1 before losing heavily to Team Hasselborg later on.

Team Roth ended up finishing level with Team Sidorova on nine points in Group B, six behind Canada, as their fortunes reversed through the week. The Americans finished with successive defeats but the Russians’ new line-up gelled and improved as the week went on.

The victor between Canada and Sweden in Sunday's finale will seal their place in May's Grand Final in Beijing.

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