JAPAN OPEN Day 1 – Lin Dan back in the tour

The Yonex kicked of today in Tokyo with the spectators able to enjoy Lin Dan’s presence in the qualification rounds, where he beat Malaysia’s Liew Daren.

By Yusuke Higuchi and Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondents live in Tokyo.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

The Yonex may have been held in September for several years running but this year, Tokyo welcomes the very best in the month of June because of the Asian Games dominating the 2014 September schedule. If anything, the event seems to have benefited from the move away from the post-Olympic / post-Worlds lull and this year boasts a top-notch field that has already begun to delight the crowds.

Lin Dan losing a game is not very common but he did  have trouble controlling shuttles against his opponent Kazumasa Sakai. The latter killed Lin Dan’s easy drops and clears by smashes but the 2-time Olympic gold medallist started playing better and better and finally beat Sakai 12-21, 21-19, 21-7.

“I didn’t have feeling in the 1st game. I needed to get accustomed to the court here, to the light and the wind in the hall as soon as possible,” said Lin Dan after the match.  “I haven’t come to the for a few years so I need more time to adapt the court, wind and so on. I just concentrate one play each match one by one. I will do my best.”

Sakai was disappointed: “I haven’t had good results recently, but today’s match against Lin Dan brought some confidence back to me.  I didn’t have stamina in the final game. I need to train more.”

Women’s singles: Last year’s finalists in qualifying

Defending champion Akane Yamaguchi made it through the qualification rounds but had to fight for her ticket to the main draw.  After an easy win against Anna Doi 21-13, 21-10, Akane was facing Yukino Nakai, who unexpectedly defeated Aya Ohori, the silver medallist of the last year’s World Junior Championships. The match went to the final game, but Akane stayed calm throughout the match and defeated Yukino by 21-17, 19-21, 21-15.

On the other hand, Shizuka Uchida, the runner-up at the ’s 2013 edition, was defeated by Natsuki Nidaira, who is only 15 and goes the same high school as Aya Ohori.  Natsuki’s persistent play forced a lot of errors from Shizuka.

After the match, Natsuki said, “Shizuka is a better player than me. I got out of breath and my legs were tired, but I never gave up. I don’t have any striking skills, but I’m good at persistent play.”

2012 World Junior Championship runners-up Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko won in straight games over Malaysia’s Lim Khim Wah and Ow Yao Han, both of whom were winners in their respective appearances in World Junior finals.

“I’m very happy to win this match. Lim Khim Wah has been a winner at the Premier level,” Takuto said afterward. “We were able to play our style and keep our pace. We have confidence after this win. It should be a tough match tomorrow. I will do my best!”

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