Kozai and Ohori dominate domestic tournament

The 2nd biggest domestic tournament in Japan was held in Saitama from May 24th to May 28th. After Japan’s amazing result in Thomas and Uber Cups, it was time for […]

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The 2nd biggest domestic tournament in Japan was held in Saitama from May 24th to May 28th. After Japan’s amazing result in Thomas and Uber Cups, it was time for coaches to keep searching for new talents. The 32 best Japanese players in each category participated in the event, including former players.

Story and photos by Miyuki Komiya, live in Saitama

Kozai surprises everyone

In the men’s singles, former national team player Kazuteru Kozai (photo) created the biggest upset of the tournament. The veteran, who had beaten Chen Long at the last Japan Open, also took care of young national team players. First, he beat the 2013 Asia Youth Under-19 finalist in the second round, then he edged 2013 Russia Open runner-up Kenta Nishimoto in the quarter-finals and 2012 World Junior Championship boys’ doubles runner-up Takuto Inoue in the semi-finals. Meanwhile, former national team backup player Shu Wada beat better ranked players one by one to reach the final.

In the final, Kozai controlled the rallies and grabbed the 1st game easily, while Shu got 2nd game back easily. The deciding game was very close but the victory eventually went to Kozai 21-12, 12-21, 21-19 .

“I’m happy to win. I didn’t expect such a good result. I didn’t have any pressure compare with national team members,” said Kozai afterward.  “I don’t have much time to train for myself because my duty is to coach badminton players in Ryukoku University but I had a few training sessions in my spare time even if it was only 30 minutes a day. I believe the process is important to get good results. I hope my students understand why I was able to win.”

Men’s doubles: defend the title

Defending champions Kazushi Yamada / Kenta Kazuno (photo) reached the final after beating 2012 World Junior Championship runners-up Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko in semi-final. Their opponents, current national team backup pair of Hiroyuki Saeki / Ryota Taohata, who had an easy path towards the final, made good start and got the 1st game. Yamada/Kazuno kept their patience to rally and got 2nd and 3rd games winning narrowly 18-21, 21-18, 21-18.

“Last year, we just played hard in this tournament. We could train a lot and had good strategies. Kazushi has been improving as a doubles player,” said Kenta Kazuno after the match.

Kazushi Yamada added, “I had been sick for 4 months from last December. I was really disappointed with my strategy and skill as a badminton player. But we managed to grab the title at the Osaka International in April. The title brought me confidence.”

“Actually, we saw that Japan team won the Thomas Cup last Sunday. We really envied them making great history. We will win against the top players in Japan and must go to the Thomas Cup next time,” the two men said with a grin.

Maiden senior title for Ohori

Aya Ohori (photo), who was World Junior Chamionship semi-finalist this year after a runner-up finish last year, is clearly one of Japan’s most promising players.  She beat veteran national team player Kaori Imabeppu 21-14, 21-19 in straight games in the final, for her first major success in the senior domestic circuit to add to her domination of an all-Russian field at the Russia Open Grand Prix last autumn.

“I am happy to get my first senior title. Once I was disappointed and asked myself why I couldn’t get any title. I went to Indonesia to participate in a local tournament and won. So the confidence came back to me. Today I was able to play well as I expected,” she said.

Women’s doubles national A pride

National A team pair Megumi Taruno / Misato Aratama (photo) beat National B team pair Yui Miyauchi / Asumi Kugo in the women’s doubles final. Taruno/Aratama played aggressively but Miyauchi/Kugo defended with patience. It was a very close match from start to finish but finally Taruno Aradama grabbed the title 19-21, 22-20, 21-17.

Aratama said, “We know our weak points so we focused on them and train hard. In this tournament, we were the only national A team pair but our mindset was as challengers so we were able to play well like we do in practice.”

Taruno added, “We were disappointed not to be selected for Uber Cup so I trained not only in doubles but also in singles for this tournament. The singles training was very useful for my doubles. I was able to play well in any long rallies.”

Mixed doubles play for doubles

National team player Ryota Taohata / Ayane Kurihara (pictured) beat Yuya Komatsuzaki / Misato Aratama 21-17, 21-17 in straight games in the final of the mixed doubles.

Ayane said, “I’m happy to win, but I feel bad because I lost in women’s doubles. I am a backup player in women’s doubles. I play in mixed doubles to gain skill and to learn strategy as a net player.  Ryota was quite good today and supported me a lot at the rear.”

Final results
MS: Kazuteru Kozai bt Shu Wada  21-12,12-21,21-19
WS: Aya Ohori beat Kaori Imabeppu  21-14,21-19
MD: Kaushi Yamada/Kenta Kazuno beat Ryota Taohata/Hiroyuki Saeki 18-21,21-18,21-18
WD: Megumi Taruno/Misato Taruno beat Yui Miyauchi/ Asumi Kugo  19-21,22-20,21-17
XD: Ryota Taohata/Ayane Kurihara beat Yuya Komatsuzaki /Misato Aratama 21-17,21-18

Click here for complete results

Miyuki Komiya

About Miyuki Komiya

Miyuki Komiya is Badzine's correspondent in Japan. She joined the Badzine team in 2008 to provide coverage of the Japanese badminton scene. She has played badminton for more than 30 years and has been a witness to the modern history of Japanese badminton, both watching players become stronger on court and hearing the players comment on their increasing success over the years. Contact her at: miyuki @ badzine.net