U.S. OPEN 2016 SF – Happy birthday, Yugo!

Japan’s Yugo Kobayashi celebrated his 21st birthday by reaching the 1st and 2nd Grand Prix Gold finals of his career as Japanese youngsters will attempt to sweep the titles by […]

Japan’s Yugo Kobayashi celebrated his 21st birthday by reaching the 1st and 2nd Gold finals of his career as Japanese youngsters will attempt to sweep the titles by beating some of the most experienced players on the circuit.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Yugo Kobayashi had many reasons to celebrate on Saturday at the .  Even before he stepped on court, it was his 21st birthday, but then when he did play, he assured that he would go at least one step further than he and Takuro Hoki (pictured top) did last year, when they lost to the eventual champions in last year’s edition of this Grand Prix Gold event.

Hoki and Kobayashi had already disposed of last year’s runners-up and the winners of last Sunday’s Canada Open final, Attri and Reddy of India.  In their semi-final, the high-flying Japanese youngsters just kept Poland’s Adam Cwalina and Przemyslaw Wacha guessing as they cruised to victory in the deciding game.

Kobayashi then teamed up later in the afternoon with Wakana Nagahara to see off Oceania champions Middleton/Choo, relegating the Australians to bronze for the second straight week.  Nagahara had started off the afternoon with a one-sided victory over Americans Hong/Zhang and in the final, she and Matsumoto will take on compatriots Tanaka/Yonemoto, who beat Pan Am champions Lee/Obanana.

But the Kobayashi has his work cut out for him if he wants to keep celebrating with a Grand Prix Gold title or two.  He has to face some of Europe’s most experienced shuttlers in both finals.

If Kobayashi and Nagahara want the mixed title, they will have to stop Robert Mateusiak from becoming the first player to win a Grand Prix Gold title after his 40th birthday.  Mateusiak and Nadiezda Zieba stopped the impressive run by the scratch pairing of Canadian Phyllis Chan and Lee Hock Hai of the U.S.

In the last match of the day, former world #1 Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (pictured above) took on another young Japanese pair, Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko.  In 2012, the Danes won Olympic silver and the Japanese were runners-up at the World Junior Championships.  Four years on, Inoue and Kaneko were playing in their first Grand Prix Gold semi-final but they still have a way to go before they can claim entry to the top echelon.

The Danes are not only playing in their first final since Mogensen suffered a ruptured aneurysm earlier this year, but they are also looking for their first title since their gold medal at the European Games last summer.  The Japanese youngsters played well but too many of their attacking chances were met with some spectacular defense from the Danish veterans, who have been playing together as a pair for almost as long as their opponents have been playing the sport.

Like the women’s doubles, the women’s singles will be an all-Japanese affair.  First Ayumi Mine handed Bulgaria’s Linda Zetchiri her second semi-final exit in as many weeks.

Then the youngest semi-finalist, Saena Kawakami (pictured above), blocked Canada’s Michelle Li from reaching her second straight final.  The 18-year-old Kawakami, who won the New Zealand and Vietnam Opens last year, is looking for her first title since graduating from juniors.

Li’s exit meant that Korean veteran Lee Hyun Il (pictured right) is the only player to reach the final in two consecutive North American weekends.  Lee beat Kevin Cordon of Guatemala in two straight.

Japan’s Kanta Tsuneyama will be the one attempting to stop Lee Hyun Il from again bettering his own mark as the oldest Grand Prix Gold singles record.  The 20-year-old saw off India’s Ajay Jayaram in just over half an hour.

Finals line-up
XD:  Robert Mateusiak / Nadiezda Zieba (POL) [2] vs. Yugo Kobayashi / Wakana Nagahara (JPN)
WS:  Saena Kawakami (JPN) vs. Ayumi Mine (JPN)
MS:  Lee Hyun Il (KOR) vs. Kanta Tsuneyama (JPN)
WD:  Shiho Tanaka / Koharu Yonemoto (JPN) [4] vs. Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (JPN)
MD:  Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (DEN) [1] vs. Takuro Hoki / Yugo Kobayashi (JPN)

Click here for complete semi-final results


Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net