Nozomi Okuhara beat Sun Yu to assure Japan of its first ever World Junior Championship title, at home in Chiba while new Superseries stars Tai Tzu Ying and Viktor Axelsen fell at the quarter-final stage.
Story: Miyuki Komiya (live in Chiba) and Don Hearn
Photos: Miyuki Komiya for Badzine (live)
The second last day at the World Junior Championships started strong for China’s youngsters, who had missed the 2011 event, but it finished with Japan the only team poised to take three titles, as Nozomi Okuhara (pictured) finally shut down the towering 2011 Asian Junior Champion Sun Yu in two games.
It all started in the quarter finals – Sun, along with compatriot Xue Song in the boys’ singles, created what looked to be the day’s top stories in the morning when they knocked off the top seeds.
The first big upset occurred in the girls’ singles quarter-final. Sun Yu defeated top seed Tai Tzu Ying of Chinese Taipei. Tai already grabbed a Superseries title at the Japan Open this year while Sun, on the other hand, has yet to get any experience in any Superseries. But Sun’s height gave her the edge until 18 points in the first game, but then the 1.85m tall girl lost control of the shuttles and gave 7 consecutive points to Tai, losing the game. In the second and third games, Sun played well again and finally won 18-21, 21-13, 21-11.
“I felt I could make good offensive shots against Tai so I played as I felt,” Sun told Badzine after match.
French Open finalist last week and former World Junior Champion in 2010, Viktor Axelsen (pictured) of Denmark was up against China’s Xue Song in the quarter-final of the men’s singles. Xue won the first game while Axelsen got the second easily. In the rubber game, it was a close fight, but Xue kept his lead from start to finish to win 21-19, 13-21, 21-17. “ I prepared a lot with our team coaches for this match. So I had confidence I could win against Viktor,” Xue Song said after the match.
After the match, Viktor sat on a bench and took off his socks showing a bloody toe. “I am not in good condition this time because of the tough schedule from last two weeks. I am disappointed,” said Axelsen.
Meanwhile, Aya Ohori did her part by disposing of second seed and Malaysian Grand Prix Gold champion Busanan Ongbumrungphan of Thailand in the only singles match to run a full hour. Her glory was short-lived, however, as she could not get past compatriot Akane Yamaguchi in the semi-final.
Xue, however, followed up on his victory over Axelsen by reaching the final to look for his own revenge on Japan’s Kento Momota, who has beaten him twice in team events this year.
Japan assured of one gold at least
In the semi-final of the girl’s singles event, Japanese junior high school Champion Akane Yamaguchi played against high school semi-finalist Aya Ohori. The 15-year-old Akane won 17-21, 21-10, 21-15.
“Akane is a clever player and she doesn’t seem to have any pressure so she can play quite freely even if she is in a bad situation,” Junior National Team coach Kim said to Badzine.
Japanese Champion Nozomi Okuhara played Sun Yu (pictured) for the second time in a week. Nozomi had never beaten Sun including the match last Sunday.
“I didn’t have idea before how to win against her but I have learned a lot in this match,” she had claimed after her loss, but this time, she turned things around with a 21-10, 22-20 victory. It was then to be an all-Japanese final as Akane Yamaguchi will take on Nozomi Okuhara for what is to be the first gold medal for Japan in the BWF World Junior Championships.
Meanwhile, China had two entries in the semi-final round of both the boys’ and mixed doubles but all came up short. Japan’s Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko have only one loss this year in junior events and these spirited boys, who have been rock solid for Japan in the team competitions, are now poised to take a possible third title for the home team.
The mixed doubles is an all-Indonesian affair for the second year running and Alfian Eko Prasetya is again looking to top the podium, after he and this year’s partner Shella Devi Aulia ran off all four finalists from this year’s Asian Juniors in three matches since Thursday.
The girls’ doubles will be the expected rematch between China’s Yu Xiaohan / Huang Yaqiong and defending champions Lee So Hee / Shin Seung Chan of Korea, who also met in the Asian Junior final in July (pictured right). This time, the Koreans will be without the home court advantage and they only barely edged out Chen/Huang in the quarter-finals but with both major junior titles already to their name, they go in as heavy favourites.
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