Several teenagers who have been tearing up both junior and senior tournaments this year have been taken to school by veteran shuttlers in the second round of the Yonex Japan Open Superseries.
By Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondent. Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live from Tokyo)
Last year’s Japanese high school champion in singles and doubles, Akira Koga (pictured), was on a high today after his win over Denmark’s Hans Kristian Vittinghus but he fell fast to Indonesian star Taufik Hidayat.
“I couldn’t do anything in the match,” Akira commented. “He hit high clears after my good net shots. It was only the chance for me to get points but I couldn’t get any points due to his great defense.
“I have watched his game for many years but I realized his badminton was much better than I expected.”
Taufik also spoke in the press conference about Akira “ I watched his match yesterday. I felt he could play very well but today, his playing was not like yesterday. Maybe the reason is that he doesn’t have much experience in big tournaments like this. I think he can become a strong player if he can get lots of experience.”
Akira’s loss, however, was merely the second of many by the teenaged contingent at the Japan Open this week. Immediately preceding him on court was the first of three girls’ singles semi-finalists from the Asian Junior Championships, Busanan Ongbumrungphan. The young Thai found Danish top seed Tine Baun too much to handle.
The story was similar for AJC finalists Nozomi Okuhara of Japan and P.V. Sindhu of India although Sindhu did manage to make things interesting against Bae Yeon Ju (pictured).
Korea’s Sung Ji Hyun beat Nozomi Okuhara, though, in straight games of 21-15 and 21-17, using to full advantage her 20cm height advantage and having particular success with her sliced shots.
“I was confident in my offensive shots,” said the tall Korean. “but the wind is very strong so I found it difficult to control the shuttles as needed.”
“I know her slices are good, and moreover the shuttle was falling more toward the forecourt than I expected because the wind was blowing from my side,” said Nozomi. “So I needed to focus on returning her slices during the match and that made me slow to react to her other shots.”
“I will prepare for World Junior Championships next month. I realized that I need to do many things to prepare,” she added.
Viktor Axelsen was the only Danish player to survive the first round but his misfortune came in having to face the #1 seed Lee Chong Wei (pictured left with Axelsen) today. With the further losses of Thailand’s Lam Narissapat and Japan’s Aya Ohori / Akane Yamaguchi in doubles, the only junior-age shuttlers left are Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand and Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei.
Ratchanok beat Malaysian Tee Jing Yi by the decisive score of 21-11, 21-10. Tee had good 11-7 start in the 1st game but after the short break, Intanon blanked the Malaysian and scored an incredible 14 consecutive points. Intanon tried to control herself in the beginning of the second game and kept her concentration from beginning until finish.
“I couldn’t prepare for this tournament because of the China League,” Intanon told Badzine after the match. “My Chinese coach and Thai coach both recommended that I join the China Super League to get some good experience there. I was able to get very good experiences not only from the matches with strong players, but also training with my team-mates.”
The other successful young player was Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei. The 18-year-old reached her second straight Japan Open quarter-final and though it wasn’t as momentous as last year, when she beat the mighty Wang Xin, she did ensure that Thailand’s Sapsiree Taerattanachai did not have another dream week.
“I have played against her many times,” Tai told Badzine after beating her 20-year-old opponent 21-13, 21-17. “I know her playing style very well so I was able to relax and just play.”
Veterans cruise through on talent and experience
In contrast to those facing teenagers, a couple of veterans have had to put in strong performances in the early rounds to keep their title hopes alive in Japan but two of them were granted some reprieve on Thursday. Thai star and Singapore Open champion Boonsak Ponsana, after narrowly edging out Sony Dwi Kuncoro in Wednesday’s longest match, made much quicker work of local ace Sho Sasaki, beating him 21-12, 21-12.
“I lost the last match in the Thomas Cup this year against him. He was much faster than I so I was a bit nervous before starting,” Boonsak told Badzine after the match. “I felt Sasaki didn’t have confidence during the match. He wasn’t fast. I just played as usual without anything special.”
Sasaki said in a press conference after the match, “I know his playing style so I tried to think how to get points from him during the match. But I couldn’t keep my concentration. It is the first time that I have not been able to control my feelings since I had mental training 3 years ago.”
Hong Kong’s Hu Yun (pictured right) seems to be on another roll here in Tokyo. After seeing off the great Peter Gade, Hu beat Japanese hopeful Takuma Ueda easily 21-12, 21-10. The 31-year-old shuttler told Badzine after the match, “Takuma seemed to be nervous, so I just played as usual. I believed I could get the win if I could play better than my opponent.
“My reaching the final last week [at the China Masters] and beating Peter and Takuma here is not just luck. The results always show my badminton level. I believe I have become a good player as I am getting the results.”
Spread the upset wealth
Singles was not the only area to see upsets come early. Mixed doubles is already down to a mere three of its original eight seeds. However, the two biggest upsets of the day came right at the end with the losses of two top-seeded Olympic silver medallists.
First Mizuki Fujii / Reika Kakiiwa were beaten in three by compatriots Yonemoto Koharu / Yuriko Miki. Then Yonathan Suryatama Dasuki / Hendra Aprida Gunawan (pictured) of Indonesia made sure Denmark’s nightmare continued. They stunned Denmark’s Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen 16-21, 21-13, 21-19.
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