JAPAN OPEN 2011 Finals – Chen Long Reigns!

It was an unlikely antagonist, spoiler to the Lin Dan vs. Lee Chong Wei rematch. Nonetheless, Chen Long proved himself a worthy opponent who added the Yonex Japan Open title […]

It was an unlikely antagonist, spoiler to the Lin Dan vs. Lee Chong Wei rematch. Nonetheless, Chen Long proved himself a worthy opponent who added the Yonex title to his China Masters crown from a week ago.

By Emzi Regala, Badzine Correspondent live in Tokyo.  Photos: Yves Lacroix for Badmintonphoto (live)

Chen Long endured loud cheering from the Malaysian crowd and after 1 hour and 13 minutes ended world #1 Lee Chong Wei’s reign at the Yonex Japan Open.

The 4th-seeded Chinese player’s name started strong and there was nothing much the Malaysian could do to keep up. Chen apologized to world #1 Lee when bird caught the net at his backhand return and landed at the opposite side of the court, giving him a 4-point lead and Lee soon found himself easily handing over the first game 8-21 to his Chinese opponent.

It seemed that the wheels of fortunes reversed at the change of court to swing to the Malaysian’s favour.  Chong Wei’s continuously attacked, aiming at Chen’s body, while speeding up the tempo forcing the Chinese to commit errors. The second game ended 21-10 for the defending champion.

The see-saw final game found both players giving everything they had. The nervous crowd held their breath as the heroes from both ends of the court battled it out.  Two consecutive service errors by Chen Long sent the Malaysian crowd wild on their feet when Chong Wei got ahead 7-6.  The younger player’s over eagerness caused him a couple of mistakes that kept the world #1 at par.

Chen Long held his fist up in the air when he scored his 14th point, giving him a two-point advantage of the Malaysian hero. Each player had a mini-streak and they soon found themselves level at 19-19.  The crowd was so dead silent that one could hear the eerie sound of the air conditioning.  A heart-stopping rally followed with neither player willing to give in.  Chen Long got the match point, to the relief of the small Chinese crowd.  Another long rally followed, feeling like the world had come to a time capsule.  When Chen Long, and then the line judge, called “OUT”, Chen took no time at all to acknowledge he’d won the match.  He threw his racket and rushed past Lee to take off his shirt and hug his coach and team-mates.

“I was very excited! I didn’t really think I’d win against Lee Chong Wei! I can’t believe I won and it’s just starting to sink in now. I’m really happy!” said the very ecstatic Chen Long.

“I’m happy with my overall performance, especially since I think my form is getting better as you can see in the second and third game.  My form has dropped after the World Championships and I missed last week’s China Masters too. The first game was not very good but overall, I’m happy. And I will be back next year,” Lee Chong Wei told reporters after the match.

She’s back with a vengeance!

There was that look in Wang Yihan’s face today, the one that will not accept anything less than gold.  Today, it was Germany’s Juliane Schenk who stood in the way: between the top seed and her third Yonex Japan Open gold medal.

From the start of the first game, the very determined Chinese played perfect badminton, utilizing all four corners of the court with her varying plays.  Wang Yihan wasted no time as she sped up the pace, disabling Schenk’s rhythm and frustrating the German’s debut in a Super Series final.

After the first game ended 21-16 in Wang’s favour, Juliane trailed just behind 6-11 in the second.  A few ‘lucky’ net-ins for Wang and several forced net errors from the exhausted German helped Wang Yihan recaptured the Super Series championship which she last held in 2009.

“This is my third finals press conference and I’m very happy to be here talking to you today.  Although I am not yet in my superb form, I was able to accomplish my goal, but I admit that Schenk’s errors contributed to my win,” Wang Yihan told reporters.

“She played perfectly today, she deserved to win. I’d like to extend my congratulations to Wang Yihan,” said the very gracious Juliane Schenk, who also added that she was proud of her accomplishment to play in a Super Series final for the first time.

China’s Great Wall of Defense

Against world #1 Cai/Fu of China, the strategy was clear: put the bird down at all costs.  Indonesia’s Mohammad Ahsan / Bona Septano succeeded in the beginning of the first game, however the Chinese pair dug deep to counter the fast drive shots coming to their side, successfully taking the first game 21-13.

The 4th-seeded Indonesians had the same tactics and were more successful in the second game and even started to open up a lead at 16-14.  But Fu unleashed his powerful smash into Bona’s body to bring the Chinese to just a point behind and it remained a test of patience to determine who had the nerves of steel.

The Chinese pair’s superb defense provided them the first match point but a wonderful save by Ahsan leveled the score at 20-all.  However, a net error by Bona and a service fault call on Fu put the scores even once again at 21.  Cai/Fu then got the next two points to end the spectacular second game with another title.

“We want to thank the fans who cheered behind us.  They gave us strength to finish the match in two games,” says Fu after the match.

“Our ultimate goal is to get the 2012 Olympic gold medal.  But before that, we will be in Denmark and the French Open,” added Cai.

“Evidently, we need to improve our defense,” Ahsan told the reporters when asked what they need to work on for future tournaments.

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About Emzi Regala