Japan national B Team players were showing how well they could play, at the Osaka International Challenge, held in the Moriguchi Gymnasium in Osaka from April 2nd to 6th.
Story and photos by Miyuki Komiya (live in Osaka)
Junior doubles players distinguish themselves in singles
2012 World Junior Championship boys’ doubles finalist Takuto Inoue played well in singles. He was selected as a doubles player by the national team, but he managed to beat some national team singles players as well as 2nd-seeded Malaysian Misbun Ramdan Mohmed Misbun. Takuto couldn’t win against Japanese veteran Riichi Takeshita, but he was able to put on display his singles talent throughout the week.
Meanwhile, one of the men who beat Inoue in that 2012 World Junior doubles final, Ng Ka Long of Hong Kong, continued to enjoy success as a singles player on the senior tour. Ng, who picked up his first International Challenge title a year ago in Hanoi, came to Osaka this time and beat Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto and top seed Kazumasa Sakai before getting the better of Riichi Takeshita in final.
“I was able play well today,” Ng Ka Long told Badzine after the final. “Takeshita looked very tired maybe because of his tough match yesterday with Takuto Inoue. If he had been playing as his best, I am not sure I would have won as easily as I did today.”
Riichi said to Badzine, “I can say I still had enough stamina in the final. I didn’t have much pressure but I couldn’t move as fast as I expected. I felt my legs were very heavy in the match. I didn’t feel tired, but my body might have felt tired.”
Former Japan Open mixed champions back
2nd-seeded Muhammad Rijal and Vita Marissa (pictured below) of Indonesia played more than an hour against Vietnam Open champions Choi Sol Kyu / Chae Yoo Jung of Koreato take the title.
Vita said, “We have been paired up again since this year. I know I am a veteran, but I want more titles, in any tournaments.”
“We got a Superseries title in Tokyo in 2008. And this year, we also got one more title in Osaka. I believe something about Japan gives me power,” Muhammad Rijal added with a grin.
Hashimoto’s tactic changes work well
Yui Hashimoto (pictured top) climbed her way into the final by beating the likes of 2012 World Junior Champion Nozomi Okuhara and London Olympian Sayaka Sato. On the other hand, Yonex team player Anna Doi reached the final from an unseeded by beating more fancied Japanese opponents. In the final, Yui was able to dictate the pace and emerged with the title.
“I didn’t have confidence to get the title at this tournament,” said Yui Hashimoto afterward. “After I beat Nozomi Okuhara, the confidence came back to me. I thought I should get this title after beating Sayaka Sato. Now I am changing my tactics to earn the victories. I believe it worked well for me.”
Veterans defend men’s doubles title
Last year’s winners Kenta Kazuno / Kazushi Yamada (pictured bottom) beat young Koreans Jun Bong Chan and Duck Young Kim to take the title again. Kazushi has had good results in singles in the past but changed his category to doubles and paired up with doubles veteran Kenta Kazuno a year and a half ago.
“Kazushi is a net player. His net skills have become better and better,” said Kazuno. “We know our problem in the game so we will train hard. We need more wins to get ranking points to join big tournaments.”
Kazushi said, “A year ago, all I could do was to drop the shuttle to set up Kenta’s smash but now, I can move faster than before with tactics because I understand what I have to do. This allows me to put some away at the net and I can play better with confidence.”
Their team Unisys coach and former national Syuichi Sakamoto told Badzine, “They played well in this tournament but the players in higher-level tournaments are stronger so they should think more about their tactics and train hard to know how to get points from their strong points.”
Top ranking pair back
Shizuka Matsuo and Mami Naito (pictured) were each playing with other team-mates last year after they moved to different teams but they paired up again and have started to play together in international events from this year. The former top ten pair beat young players and got a good start for their new world challenge.
MS: Ng Ka Long (HKG)  bt Riichi Takeshita (JPN)  21-13, 21-12
XD: Muhammad Rijal / VitaMarissa (INA)  bt Choi Sol Kyu / Chae Yoo Jung (KOR)  21-18, 17-21, 21-18
WS: Yui Hashimoto (JPN)  bt Anna Doi (JP) 21-13, 21-14
MD: Kenta Kazuno / Kazushi Yamada (JPN) bt Jun Bong Chan / Kim Duck Young (KOR)  21-19, 21-11
WD: Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito (JPN)  bt Asumi Kugo/ Yui Miyauchi (JPN)  24-22, 21-6