JAPAN OPEN QF – Akane keeps the upsets rolling

18-year-old Akane Yamaguchi scored her second straight win over Olympic champion Li Xuerui as the women’s draws at the Japan Open continue to produce upsets. By Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondent […]

18-year-old Akane Yamaguchi scored her second straight win over Olympic champion Li Xuerui as the women’s draws at the continue to produce upsets.

By Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondent live in Tokyo.  Photos:  Badmintonphoto (live)

Japanese women’s singles shuttlers had already been responsible for half a dozen major upsets even before quarter-finals day began.  Rising star Akane Yamaguchi, who won this event two years ago, played against Chinese world #4 and reigning Olympic champion Li Xuerui (pictured) in such a way as to ensure the trend would continue.

Akane was able to play at her pace, with jumping slice shots in the first game and finished it off 21-19.  Li changed her tactics and got the second game handily but in the decider, Li seemed to want to kill the shuttle as soon as possible, but Akane controlled the shuttle, sending it to all 4 corners.

Akane kept running and maintained her speed, keeping the game at her pace.  The teenaged sensation won the final game 21-16 to set up a meeting with Wang Shixian in the semi-finals.

“I made a lot of mistakes today,” said Li Xuerui after the match.  “The last time we met, I lost to her for the first time, but I didn’t have a feeling that I was afraid to play her or anything.”

“This arena is big, so I felt the shuttle speed was slow,” Akane said in the press conference.  “Maybe Li wanted to play with speed but I tried to stop her pace and controlled the game with my tactics.”

After the press conference, her national team coach told the Badzine, “I felt she didn’t have enough power and stamina compared with the top players.  So I gave her a physical training regimen not only for when she is in Japan but also when she has lost in early rounds when she is on the road.

“Sometimes she has muscle aches.  I think that the training must be tough for her but she did her best.  Today she was able to keep her speed up in the final.  That hard training has given her stamina and speed.”

In fact, the semi-finals will be played without any of the top three seeds as world #7 Wang Shixian (pictured) made another upset to become the only Chinese shuttler in the final four.  World Champion and top seed Carolina Marin played at her pace in the first game and took it 21-13.

The second game started at Marin’s pace and the Spaniard maintained the advantage until she led 14-10.  Shixian run a lot and played with patience until she caught Marin at 14 points.  Marin couldn’t keep her concentration and lost the 2nd game 19-21.  The final game was at Wang Shixian’s pace from start to finish and she won it 21-15.

“My performance was not so good today because I felt tired,” Marin said after the match.  “In the second game, my concentration was gone.  I need to change my mind.”

Wang will be the sole Chinese representative in the semi-finals in Tokyo, however.  This is the second time this year that Wang has outlasted her compatriots in this way in a event.  Tai Tzu Ying scored her third straight win over three-time winner Wang Yihan (pictured) and it will be she who takes on Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara for a spot in the final.

Click here for complete quarter-final 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