JAPAN OPEN 2019 Finals – Momota defends but Japan denied 3 titles

Momota shed tears after defending his title at the 2019 Japan Open but for the 3rd straight year, Japan had 3 finalists and failed to win 3 titles at home. […]

Momota shed tears after defending his title at the 2019 but for the 3rd straight year, Japan had 3 finalists and failed to win 3 titles at home.

By Miyuki Komiya, Badzine Correspondent live in Tokyo.  Photos: Yves Lacroix / Badmintonphoto (live)

In recent years, Japan has managed to take as many as three of the five titles at various major events, something that in the era was only done by 3 countries.  In the last three editions of the Japan Open, the home team has had 3 finalists attempting to extend the feat to this prestigious event but for a third straight time, they came up just short.  But Japanese fans still had plenty of heroics to cheer for on Sunday at what will next summer be the Olympic badminton venue.

The opening match on Sunday was women’s singles, where Akane Yamaguchi (pictured right) and Nozomi Okuhara faced off, much as they did in the 2015 final.  On that occasion, Okuhara won what was then her biggest title in her home country.

Yamaguchi didn’t want to play long rallies, because she felt tired, and meanwhile, Okuhara attacked a lot from the start.  Yamaguchi allowed Okuhara to dictate the pace and suddenly sped up when she found chances to attack.

Nozomi Okuhara (pictured left, with Yamaguchi) placed the shuttles in all four corners but the shuttles kept going out or into the net.  The last shot from Okuhara was out at the back too and Yamaguchi prevailed 21-13, 21-15 and won the Japan Open title for the first time since 2013, when she was still just a teenager.

“My tactics worked well today,” said Yamaguchi in the post-match press conference.  “My stamina was lacking because I played many matches, especially with the Indonesia Open just last week.  I found a good balance in my matches at the Indonesia Open.  When I won my first title here, I was young and just playing my best without pressure.  But now, I have pressure and responsibility as a top player.

“I’m happy to have the final here against another Japanese player.  I thought this tournament would be like the Olympic finals next year.  I hope I can play with Okuhara again in this venue one year from now.

Okuhara said, “Yamaguchi was able to change her speed along with her tactics.  Actually, the top players such as Tai Tzu Ying and Chen Yufei  also can change their speed well tactically.  I tried to fit her pace, so I tried to think during the rallies but it led to a lot of errors due to too much thinking in the rally.  Then, the errors made me nervous.  It became a bad routine and I gave away many points to my opponent.”

Next up was women’s doubles and the favourites were reigning World Champions Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara from Japan, who reached the final after beating former Olympic champions Takahashi/Matsumoto with their best performance.  On the other hand, Kim So Yeong / Kong Hee Yong (pictured) from Korea reached the final by offing 5th-seeded Polii/Rahayu from Indonesia after first besting former World Champions Chen/Jia from China.

The Korean pair played the match their way with powerful smash and solid retrieving and the Japanese players were not able to perform the way they had hoped.  They were not able to move their tired legs to return the Koreans’ shots and the underdogs got the title in two quick games of 21-12.

“We’re really happy this win.  We can’t stop smiling,” said Kong Hee Yong, who played in her first ever Superseries final here in 2017, in the press conference.  “Before, we often changed partners as tests so my performance was not stable.  We paired up from last Malaysia Masters.  We talk a lot, so our mental attitude has became stable, and also we could focus more on the match.  It make our results better and better.”

“We always believe the most important thing is to play as our best,” added Kim So Yeong.  “This title has made us confident so we hope we can play our best in our next tournament in Thailand.

Mayu Matsumoto (pictured left, with Wakana Nagahara) said, “Our preparation was lacking today.  Our legs didn’t work well so receiving and attacking was hard for us.

“We couldn’t play like yesterday.  We are not stable yet.  We try to find how to make our performances consistent for the future.”

Cheers and tears as Momota defends

Men’s singles was between defending champion Kento Momota (pictured) and Asian Games gold medallist Jonatan Christie from Indonesia.  Momota felt he didn’t  have enough stamina, so he changed tactics and sometimes played with Christie’s pace, but didn’t miss the chance to attack strongly, though he sometimes focussed on receiving.  Momota didn’t allow Christie to gain the advantage with his attacks and he too won in two games convincingly to successfully defend his Japan Open title.

Momota was crying in the on-court interview: “I’m very happy to keep the title.  Also many people supported and cheered for me. I am seeded number one, but I lost my confidence because of my early loss in the Indonesia Open last week.  I put a lot of pressure on myself because I really wanted this Open title.  Cheering from the many people in my home country gave me the confidence.  I really appreciated the support.”

Jonatan Christie (pictured left, with Momota) said “I came up with tactics against Momota last night and it worked well in the beginning of the first game but Momota is a smart player.  He knows his opponents study his tactics and try to find his weak point so he changed his style to fit my tactics.  He played quite well today.

“Anyway, I’m happy to reach the final in the Olympic venue.  I haven’t played in the Olympics yet.  The older players on my team say that Olympians always have too much pressure but I hope I can enjoy the matches if I can play there.”

Mixed doubles was also mostly one-sided match and like most major events, the title went to a Chinese pair.  This time, it was world #2 Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (pictured below) who got the better of Praveen Jordan / Melati Daeva Oktavianti from Indonesia.

The Chinese pair’s speedy and powerful attack combination made many points though Indonesians were clearly playing their best.  This marks the second Japan Open title for China Wang/Huang, who won their first ever Superseries title here back in 2017.

The last match was a repeat of the men’s doubles final at the Indonesia Open last week.  The senior pair, Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan, defended quite well, controlling the shuttle to the open spaces but the defending champions continued attacking and got the first game.  Ahsan/Setiawan changed their tactics to play more aggressively, allowing them to go in front 15-10 in the second game.  Ahsan admitted later that he believed the match would go to a third game but the “Minions” chased and caught up at 18-all.  They kept their speed up and got the match as 21-18, 23-21, making this a third consecutive Japan Open title for Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (pictured bottom).

Final results
WS:  Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) [4] beat Nozomi Okuhara (JPN) [3]  21-13, 21-15
WD:  Kim So Yeong / Kong Hee Yong (KOR) beat Mayu Matsumoto / Wakana Nagahara (JPN) [1]  21-12, 21-12
MS:  Kento Momota (JPN) [1] beat Jonatan Christie (INA) [6]  21-16, 21-13
XD:  Wang Yilyu / Huang Dongping (CHN) [2] beat Praveen Jordan Melati Daeva Oktavianti (INA) [7]  21-17, 21-16
MD:  Marcus Fernaldi Gideon / Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo (INA) [1] beat Mohammad Ahsan / Hendra Setiawan (INA) [4]  21-18, 23-21

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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