U.S. OPEN 2016 Finals – Two more win Grand Prix Golds at 36!

Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen got back to the top of the podium as birthday boy Boe became only the fifth player to win a Grand Prix Gold at age […]

Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen got back to the top of the podium as birthday boy Boe became only the fifth player to win a Gold at age 36.

By Don Hearn, with Miyuki Komiya.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (archives)

Finals day at the 2016 Grand Prix Gold culminated in a battle of the birthday boys.  Yugo Kobayashi had celebrated his 21st on Saturday by winning entry to the first two Grand Prix Gold finals of his career.  On Sunday, it was Mathias Boe’s turn to celebrate his 36th and he did it with the first title for him and Carsten Mogensen (pictured top) since their European Games Gold last year.

For almost the first half hour, the men’s doubles final shaped up to be a blowout for the top-seeded Danes.  Yugo Kobayashi and Tokuro Hoki (pictured right) may have had plenty of energy but they just couldn’t compete with the European veterans early in the rallies and the two tall men punished every shuttle that came too high.

Then, trailing 9-17 in the second game, the Japanese youngsters put together an incredible 10-1 run to snatch the lead.  Kobayashi had a couple of golden opportunities to finish the rallies but he sent one smash long and then coughed a sure kill into the net on game point.  The Danes capitalized and took the match on their first opportunity.

“We couldn’t play well at the beginning of the match,” Hoki said afterward.  “If we had played from beginning of the match as well as in the latter part of the second game, we may have had a chance to win.

“We were able to beat better players than us in the semis and quarters.  Those wins brought us confidence.”

Kobayashi added: “Our opponents were great. They were much faster than us so we couldn’t play as usual and gave them many points easily.  We will do more physical training so that we can show good performances in all our matches even if we have played many matches in a tournament.”

By winning the title on his 36th birthday, Boe joined some very select company.  In fact, of the four other players who have accomplished similar feats, three were competing in this tournament and two on finals day even.  While Tony Gunawan – who was the first ever to do it, back in 2012 – had already lost in the early rounds, Korea’s Lee Hyun Il (pictured) was playing in his first international final since his own 36th birthday.

Lee’s match was opposite to that of his fellow veterans.  He had his close call in his first game with 20-year-old Kanta Tsuneyama of Japan, in more ways that one.  Leading 20-19, Lee let Tsuneyama’s lift land at the back of the court and was displeased when the shot was called ‘in’, sending the game into extra points.

Lee was quick to get his head back in the game, however, and after letting his opponent inch ahead, he got back and played solid defense to take the exciting final rally and finish the game 24-22.

The second game belonged to the former world #1.  He charged ahead from 6-8 down and his 12 unanswered points put the match beyond reach for Tsuneyama.  Lee thus beat his own record as the oldest Grand Prix Gold singles champion to date.  In the past year, he had reached the finals of all 7 of the international events he’s entered and has won four of those.

The elder statesman on finals day, Poland’s Robert Mateusiak, was actually vying to become the first player to win a Grand Prix title in his forties, at least since the Grand Prix took on its present form in 2007.  He and Nadiezda Zieba (pictured) were heavy favourites against the first-time pairing of Yugo Kobayashi and Wakana Nagahara.

The young Japanese players were in control for most of the first game but mid-way through the second, they had troubles with their touch and several loose shots at the net were pummelled down by a vigilant Zieba.  They fought back at the end, though, and finished the second game 21-18.

“I knew our opponents were a higher ranked and better pair than us,” Kobayashi said after the victory.  “I figured I was faster than them so I tried moving toward the shuttles to take them as fast as possible. As a bad point today, I gave away some rallies with easy mistakes.

“It was my first time playing in the final of a Grand Prix Gold and I was able to win! I was very glad when we got the last point.”

Nagahara was close to an upset in her women’s doubles match as well but after narrowly grabbing the first game, she and Mayu Matsumoto lost the second and blew what looked like a comfortable lead at the interval in the decider.

The youngest finalist, Saena Kawakami, won her first game against compatriot Ayumi Mine (pictured above right) but just couldn’t sustain it.  Mine won the next two easily and took the first major title of her career, beating an opponent who won two Grand Prix titles as a 17-year-old last year.

“I was a bit nervous because my opponent was a more senior Japanese player,” Saena Kawakami (pictured above left) said after the final, “but I believe the first game was good as I played at my pace.

“Still, I couldn’t win the match even though I was able to enjoy it and play with a positive attitude.  I botched some rallies with mistakes in important situations and [Ayumi Mine] had much better endurance than I did.

“I will train harder after I get back to Japan, without forgetting this regrettable feeling.  I couldn’t get the title this time, but I did learn a lot through these all matches.”

“I was able to play with strong fighting spirit in all matches,” said Ayumi Mine after her victory.  “I’m happy to win this title but there are also a lot of points to reflect on.  I’d like to train with more effort for the next tournament.”

This was the last Grand Prix Gold event before the Rio Olympics and the two European finalists will now return to focus on their final preparations.  The women’s titleists, as well as Tsuneyama, will be back in action soon as the next regular Grand Prix event gets underway in Vietnam in a week’s time.

Final results
XD:  Yugo Kobayashi / Wakana Nagahara (JPN) beat Robert Mateusiak / Nadiezda Zieba (POL) [2]  21-16, 21-18
WS:  Ayumi Mine (JPN) beat Saena Kawakami (JPN)  16-21, 21-11, 21-15
MS:  Lee Hyun Il (KOR) beat Kanta Tsuneyama (JPN)  24-22, 21-8
WD:  Shiho Tanaka / Koharu Yonemoto (JPN) [4] beat Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (JPN)  20-22, 21-15, 21-19
MD:  Mathias Boe / Carsten Mogensen (DEN) [1] beat Takuro Hoki / Yugo Kobayashi (JPN)  21-11, 22-20

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Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @ badzine.net