U.S. OPEN Finals – 1st major title for Inoue and Kaneko

Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko won the battle of the would-be first time Grand Prix Gold titlists, beating Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han to become 2017 U.S. Open […]

Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko won the battle of the would-be first time Gold titlists, beating Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han to become 2017 champions.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (pictured top) have become much quieter since their exuberant younger days, when they were World Championship runners-up and beating Chinese opponents in two team finals back in 2012.  Then again, they may only have seemed calm in contrast to one of the most vociferous pairs on the world badminton scene, their U.S. Open final opponents Lu Ching Yao and Yang Po Han (pictured right).

It was what the Japanese pair did during the rallies, though, rather than the celebrations afterward that finally drowned out the cries of the Taiwan players.  They bounced back from a first game loss to dominate the next two as they showed excellent rotation and Yuki Kaneko did a fantastic job of directing his attacking play to set up Inoue’s finishes at the net.

It was the second Grand Prix Gold final in just over 3 months for Inoue and Kaneko and after losing at the China Masters to Chen/Wang, they were determined not to go down to their compatriots.  The loss meant a third Grand Prix Gold runner-up finish this year for top seeds Lu/Yang.  The result for both pairs will see them continue their climb further into the world’s top 20.

For Michelle Li, this U.S. Open is still the best result since coming back 3 months ago from a 7-month injury hiatus.  It didn’t really look like it in the opening game as Japan’s Aya Ohori (pictured) dominated the second half.

But while it looked to be all over for the Canadian when she trailed 1-7 in the second game, she really took control with varied attacks and some delightful net play and after gaining the slight edge at the interval, looked set to force a deciding game when she was up 18-14.  Ohori suddenly got a grip on the rallies, though, and Li made a few bad errors, one finally giving her opponent the win at 21-19.

Lee So Hee and Shin Seung Chan first paired together 10 years ago as middle school students but today marked their first Grand Prix Gold title together.  In the nearly 3 years between their second World Junior Championship title and when they were both given new partners, Lee and Shin appeared in three Grand Prix Gold finals and picked up both a Universiade gold medal and a World Championship bronze.

It was in this likely temporary reunion at the U.S. Open, though, that the Koreans were able to achieve the title together.  They beat last week’s Canada Open winners Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara in straight games, relegating the Japanese pair to runner-up status at this event for the second straight year.

Later, in the afternoon, however, Shin Seung Chan (pictured) suffered the first loss of her career in a mixed doubles final.  She has only played three in her career, but picked up a mixed title on a walkover back in 2014.  Last week was her first Grand Prix mixed title but this week, she and Kim Won Ho could not find a way past a different pair of compatriots, taking one game but losing the next two to Chinese Taipei Open winners Seo Seung Jae / Kim Ha Na.

H. S. Prannoy (pictured bottom) was the one who succeeded in becoming the fourth Indian player to win a major men’s singles title this year. Parupalli Kashyap managed to stay just ahead in the second to force the decider but that third game was dominated by Prannoy and he joined Sai Praneeth, Srikanth Kidambi, and Sameer Verma in titling in 2017.

Interestingly, neither finalist is among the four who will be representing India at next month’s , as Ajay Jayaram and his three title-holding compatriots made up the Indian quota.  In fact, only the men’s doubles and women’s singles finalists from Anaheim are headed home to prepare for the Worlds, although both Lee and Shin are going to Glasgow with other partners.

Final results
WD:  Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan (KOR) beat Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (JPN) [7]  21-16, 21-13
MS:  H. S. Prannoy (IND) [2] beat Parupalli Kashyap (IND)  21-15, 20-22, 21-12
WS:  Aya Ohori (JPN) [3] beat Michelle Li (CAN) [6]  21-11, 21-19
XD:  Seo Seung Jae / Kim Ha Na (KOR) beat Kim Won Ho / Shin Seung Chan (KOR)  16-21, 21-14, 21-11
MD:  Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko (JPN) [2] beat Lu Ching Yao / Yang Po Han (TPE) [1]  15-21, 21-13, 21-13

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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