KOREA OPEN Finals – Endo: Finally I won the title!

It was tenth time lucky for veteran Hiroyuki Endo as he won a Superseries by another name at the Korea Open Super 500, after 9 times when he had to […]

It was tenth time lucky for veteran Hiroyuki Endo as he won a by another name at the , after 9 times when he had to settle for silver.

By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Seoul
Photos: Yves Lacroix / Badmintonphoto (live)

For all intents and purposes, Hiroyuki Endo played in his tenth Superseries final today but for the first time since he first played on a Sunday at the 2012 China Masters, he will go home carrying a gold medal instead of a single one.

It didn’t look at first as if it would work out that way, though.  In the first game, Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi ran circles around Endo and partner Yuta Watanabe, pausing only to rain bullet-like smashes.

In the second, Watanabe used his feather-light mobility to great effect and together with Endo’s usual solid play, they surged ahead in the latter half of the game to even the match at one game apiece and then dominated the decider.

“In the first game, the tempo was so fast that I had trouble controlling my breathing so that may be one reason why we lost,” said Watanabe afterward.  “In the next two games, we tried to calm down and control the tempo and that’s why we were able to win.”

Watanabe was informed in the mixed zone that he and Endo were the first Japanese men ever to win a Korea Open title:  “I am very surprised and excited to hear this news and I am so happy to be the first men’s doubles pair to win this title.”

As for Endo, he looked more relieved than excited to come away with gold after 7 silvers in the Superseries – including 3 Superseries Premiers and one – and one more in a , and one in a Super 500.

“Finally, I won the title,” was all the soft-spoken 31-year-old had to say.

Singles titles to the favourites

The afternoon started off with Chou Tien Chen back in a final after barely a month since his Asian Games silver medal performance in August.  He and opponent Tommy Sugiarto had each been in a Super 500 final immediately prior to the World Championships in July but Chou won his in Singapore, while Sugiarto had lost the Thailand Open final.

Unfortunately for the Indonesian, both players ended up on the same step of the podium as they had in the summer.  Chou seized the advantage early in both games and refused to let go.  Sugiarto played many excellent rallies but Chou was just too good in the end at getting on the attack and making it count.

“Our styles are much the same, with many smashes and a lot of attacking,” said Chou after the match, “but today, at controlling the wind, maybe I did better so I had more chances to attack.

“Of course, I am going back home [to play the Chinese Taipei Open] with more confidence but I am actually surprised because I had decided not to come to this tournament in Korea but some plans changed so I came here and became the champion.  I’m very happy to go back to my home and I think my performance will be better.

“I think everyone has many tournaments but earlier this year, we already knew so we knew how to prepare for many tournaments so it’s no problem if I just don’t get injured.

“I can’t celebrate particularly because I have to go back to my home and rest because the next tournament is very soon, maybe beginning Wednesday so after the Chinese Taipei Open, I will relax, I guess.

Chou did admit, though, that he wouldn’t have much time to relax and enjoy his success even after his home event next week, as he will soon have to make his way to the Denmark Open: “It’s true because we have many tournaments but that’s fine.  That’s what we players do.”

Chou made a point of dedicating his performance in the final to the victims of the earthquake and tsunami in Palu, Sulawesi.  He said it saddened him when he heard the news before the final.

Okuhara goes up one step in Korea

Like Tommy Sugiarto, Nozomi Okuhara also came to Korea as a and lost a final.  But Okuhara already followed that up with a Korea Open runner-up finish last year, when she was again beaten by P. V. Sindhu in the final.

This year, Okuhara had to play three games but she stayed more consistent in the end against Zhang Beiwen of the United States and she took the title in just under an hour.  Okuhara reached only the quarter-finals of both the 2018 World Championships – where she was the defending champion – and the Asian Games, where she was among the many favourites but this is her second title of the year, after the Thailand Open in July.

“Three-game matches are so exhausting but I really wanted to win it in the end so I just did my best to win it.  The wind was so strong in the first and second game but I think I was so lucky to get the championship in the end.

“This is my second title this year but the Korea Open and the Thailand Open were both Super 500 events so they are not the top level competition and they didn’t have the toughest players participating in the competition but I am so happy to win the competition because it gives me confidence to take into the higher-level tournaments.

“This is the end of three weeks of playing in tournaments so rather than celebrating, I just want to have a rest.”

The third victory for Japan became the second title in as many Sundays for Olympic gold medallists Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi.  They followed up their victory at the last week by beating the champions from the previous week in Japan, world #1 pair Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (pictured bottom).

This marks the first time that Japan had won any doubles title at the Korea Open, with Akane Yamaguchi’s singles title in 2016 having been the first ever for a neighbour from the east.  This may seem surprising given that Korea and Japan have a history of badminton cooperation at both the junior and senior level that goes back to the early seventies but of course, the Korea Open only got up and running in 1991, when Korea’s place among the badminton superpowers was already well established.

27 Japan Open titles have gone to Korean shuttlers since 1981 but this time, it is Japan’s athletes, together with their Korean coaches Park Joo Bong and Choi Sang Beom, who will be flying back across the sea with three champions.

Final results
MS:  Chou Tien Chen [4] beat Tommy Sugiarto (INA) [8]  21-13, 21-16
WS:  Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) [3] beat Zhang Beiwen (USA) [6]  21-10, 17-21, 21-16
MD:  Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe (JPN) [8] beat Takuro Hoki / Yugo Kobayashi (JPN)  9-21, 21-15, 21-10
WD:  Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi (JPN) [2] beat Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota (JPN) [1]  21-11, 21-18
XD:  Mathias Christiansen / Christinna Pedersen (DEN) [2] vs. He Jiting / Du Yue (CHN) [5]

Click here for complete results

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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