Japan announces its 2018 national team

On December 12, the Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) announced its national team members for 2018, adding mostly finalists from the 2017 Canada Open. By Miyuki Komiya.  Photos: Yves Lacroix / […]

On December 12, the Nippon Badminton Association (NBA) announced its team members for 2018, adding mostly finalists from the 2017 Canada Open.

By Miyuki Komiya.  Photos: Yves Lacroix / Badmintonphoto and Miyuki Komiya

At the beginning of All Japan Championships in November, the NBA announced they would pick up about 10 male and 10 female members for the 2018 national A team, each group including 4 singles players and 3 doubles pairs.  However, they added some players in as part of the Tokyo Olympic project.

While results at the All Japan Championships are the key criterion for determining the A team selections, it just so happened that 5 of the 7 new faces on the most elite squad consist of Japan’s finalists in the first Grand Prix tournament of this year, the Canada Open in July.

National A team

The members of the national A team are those upon whom rest the highest expectations for qualifying for the 2020 Olympics.  These players will be the ones representing Japan in the highest level tournaments in the coming year, basically down to the US$350,000 ‘Level 4’ events that are essentially replacing the Superseries.

All 4 men’s singles semi-finalists from the All Japan Championships were selected, as was Macau Open winner .  All Japan Champion Riichi Takeshita (pictured right, with All Japan runner-up Kenta Nishimoto) was one of the players who is joining the A team for the first time since 2016.

The other two new faces are Kento Momota and Canada Open winner Kanta Tsuneyama (pictured top).  The final in Canada was Momota’s first in over a year and it was also Tsuneyama’s best result of 2017.

  • Riichi Takeshita
  • Kenta Nishimoto
  • Kazumasa Sakai
  • Kanta Tsuneyama
  • Kento Momota

All 4 All Japan Championship semi-finalists in men’s doubles were also selected.  In this case, the new additions were Takuto Inoue/Yuki Kaneko, who finally topped the podium this year at the U.S. Open, then reached their first Superseries final a few months later.

  • Hiroyuki Endo / Yuta Watanabe
  • Takuro Hoki / Yugo Kobayashi
  • Keigo Sonoda / Takeshi Kamura
  • Takuto Inoue / Yuki Kaneko

Women’s singles also ended up with 5 members on the A team but only 3 of the All Japan semi-finalists were among them.  Minatsu Mitani reached the semis and was on the A team in 2017 but she was still relegated to the B team for 2018.

Meanwhile, current and former Canada Open champions Saena Kawakami (pictured right) and Nozomi Okuhara were selected by the result in international tournaments.  In Okuhara’s case, of course, the World Championship title made up for her injury woes that kept her sidelined since the Japan Open, including missing All Japan.  Kawakami had already picked up a Grand Prix Gold title in Taipei prior to winning in Calgary.

  • Akane Yamaguchi
  • Aya Ohori
  • Sayaka Sato
  • Saena Kawakami
  • Nozomi Okuhara

Women’s doubles quite simply saw the top 4 pairs from the All Japan Championships selected for the A team.  However, it just so happens that the pair that joined the three pairs from last year’s team was yet another Canada Open champion, Wakana Nagahara / Mayu Matsumoto (pictured below).

Nagahara and Matsumoto have already had the chance to play in several Superseries events since September and they reached a semi-final at the French Open.  Their compatriots Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao have been named to the B team for the second straight year but they have continued to play in the Superseries as dictated by BWF rules as they have spent most of this year in the world’s top 10.

  • Yuki Fukushima / Sayaka Hirota
  • Ayaka Takahashi / Misaki Matsutomo
  • Koharu Yonemoto / Shiho Tanaka
  • Wakana Nagahara / Mayu Matsumoto

Mixed doubles sees some key changes.  Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino, winners at the All Japan Championships, were again selected and will be the focus for new mixed doubles Jeremy Gan, who joins the NBA coaching staff from Malaysia from next year.  The NBA is going to have a selection camp this weekend to pick up some talented prospects from among the younger players.

So far, the biggest difference compared to last year’s national squads is the absence of Japan’s top mixed pair in the world rankings, Kenta Kazuno and Ayane Kurihara.  They are currently finished off their season by participating at the Superseries Finals in Dubai but they – along with men’s’ singles player Takuma Ueda – are the only players from the 2017 A team who did not play All Japan and who are on neither the A nor the B squad for 2018.  Without the world #16 pair, Higashino is thus the only player named to the 2018 A team solely for mixed doubles, as her partner is also going to be counted on in a men’s pairing.

Click here to see the photo list of the national teams on the NBA website


Miyuki Komiya

About Miyuki Komiya

Miyuki Komiya is Badzine's correspondent in Japan. She joined the Badzine team in 2008 to provide coverage of the Japanese badminton scene. She has played badminton for more than 30 years and has been a witness to the modern history of Japanese badminton, both watching players become stronger on court and hearing the players comment on their increasing success over the years. Contact her at: miyuki @ badzine.net