After the London Olympics, several young badminton players have started on their new way to success well in advance of Rio. Seven young players in particular were able to put their ability on display in front of their coaches, the public, and for half of them, their sponsor, as four categories saw first-time Superseries title winners today at the Yonex Japan Open.
By Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondent live in Tokyo. Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)
Malaysia’s Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (pictured) played against Indonesian scratch pair Muhammad Rijal / Liliyana Natsir. As Lilyana said, “We couldn’t concentrate at the beginning of the match”, and this was evidenced by the Malaysians having a good start and keeping their lead until closing the opener 21-12.
The Malaysians kept their pace with strong smashes and had another good start in the second game, but this time the Indonesians didn’t give up and caught them with 4 consecutive points to lead at 17-15. The score stayed close until 19-19, when Chan and Goh had already begun a 3-point run where they kept the attack and their persistent smashes gave them the 21-19 win.
Goh said after the match, “I was afraid of playing before the second game. I couldn’t control my mind and keep it on winning. We got some good experience in this tournament. We tried not to make the same mistakes as we have made before. Anyway, I’ very happy.”
“I didn’t expect this title before I came. I can’t believe that I got a Superseries title. No words come to my head,” Chan said with smile. “We need to control our mental state more before and during the match. Winning or losing depends on our mental state in world’s top level.”
Right after the young Malaysians got gold, their team-mate and London Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei appeared to take his expected title in the men’s singles final, where he was against Thai superstar Boonsak Ponsana (pictured right with Lee Chong Wei).
Boonsak tried to keep the shuttle speed down. Chong Wei was troubled by the strong wind in the hall and gave some easy points to Boonsak with his mis-hits. Boonsak had an early lead, which he relinquished when Chong Wei upped the pace but the Thai caught Chong Wei again at 17-17. However, Lee Chong Wei kept his speed and got the 1st game as 21-18.
The second game was much the same story. Boonsak again had a good start erased by Lee Chong Wei’s 7-point run. But Boonsak never gave up, right up until last shot and he made some incredible defensive shots, keeping the crowd’s excitement up through the last rally. The winner of that rally, though, was Lee Chong Wei and he got his 3rd Japan Open title in front of not only his sponsor but also his mother and sister.
“Chong Wei is a Top player, so I play carefully each rally. My racket grip was very wet, so hard to controlled shuttle,” Boonsak said after the match.
“My condition was not perfect, actually,” said Lee Chong Wei, “because I was shocked that I couldn’t get the gold medal in the Olympics and didn’t have time to train hard. I was too forcused on using technical shots so I made a lot of mistakes. Anyway, I am happy to get this title in front of my sponsor Yonex.”
Japan’s two shots at a first home gold
In the women’s singles, with the form of Japanese veteran Eriko Hirose all week, it looked like her match against the up-and-coming Tai Tzu Ying (pictured) of Chinese Taipei would finally produce a hometown champion for the Japan Open.
Hirose got the first game by a surprisingly easy 21-9, and then Tzu Ying sped up the pace in the second to one Eriko couldn’t match, and took it 21-9. In the deciding game, Tzu Ying kept her speed and Hirose tried to defend, but ultimately it was Tai Tzu Ying who got her first Superseries title after a 21-14 third game.
“I couldn’t move around at her speed,” Eriko said after the match.
“I didn’t have the confidence to play well against Eriko because I lost two matches against her this year before the Olympics,” said Tai Tzu Ying. “This tournament is my first since the Olympics and that means my first toward next the Olympics in Brazil. I have made a good start.”
And Malaysia goes for the hat-trick
After two Malaysian team-mates had won titles, the Malaysian fans in the hall were looking forward to a third when their favourites, Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong, played against the lower-ranked Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang (pictured) of Korea.
The Malaysians had mentioned that they hadn’t trained a lot after the Olympics; moreover, Koo felt something wrong on his knees today. Tan didn’t make his way well because of his nervous mood to want to get this title. On the other hand, Korean could make their way with their strong drive shots. Korean get their 1st super series title as 21-16, 21-19 in straight.
“I really wanted to get win but the emotion was too much. I couldn’t control my emotions and made a lot mistakes due to the nervous feeling,” said Tan Boon Heong after the match.
“I feel great to get this first Superseries title,” said the winner Kim Ki Jung. “The matches were very tough from the quarter-final. Today, we were able to play as well as we have in training.”
“We partnered three years ago but I had something bad inside my hip, so we started to play together last year,” said Kim Sa Rang. “I’m very happy to get this big title after less than two years training.”
The final match was women’s doubles, and Japan’s Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito had another golden opportunity for a home title, up against the lower-ranked Hong Kong pair of Poon Lok Yan and Tse Ying Suet (pictured).
The Japanese pair tried to create chances with their good defensive shot but the Hong Kong pair had the same idea. The games were close but Poon and Tse showed greater concentration than the Japanese on defense.
Having earned a match point at 21-20, Tse Ying Suet never gave up and kept defending, even seated on the floor. She got her opportunity to stand up again and put the shuttle into the space at the back of the Japanese court, giving the Hong Kong pair their first Superseries title.
“We relied too much on defense,” Shizuka said in the post-match press conference. “I didn’t play like the matches before the semi-final.”
“I have lost my way in badminton these days,” Mami Naito added.
“We are very happy as we could make good result,” Tse said, celebrating their first gold. “In this tournament, we were able to play very well and with patience.”
“Japanese players are very tough and play very patiently,” added Poon. “We tried to play one rally at a time as we have in the past against these opponents. That is what produced this great result.”
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