Former top-15 player Sayaka Sato finally re-emerged as a title winner by capturing the Jeonju Victor Korea Masters on Sunday.
The Japanese left-hander (featured image), who had a freefall down the rankings after a serious leg injury at the London Olympics in 2012, enjoyed one of her brightest moments since then, beating China’s Sun Yu 22-20 21-19 in the Women’s Singles final.
Korean players swept the board in the other four categories.
Lee Dong Keun upstaged senior compatriot Lee Hyun Il in the Men’s Singles final, 17-21 21-14 21-14 in a 78-minute encounter. Kim Gi Jung/Kim Sa Rang (Men’s Doubles), Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee (Women’s Doubles) and Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na (Mixed Doubles) were the other winners.
But it was Sayaka Sato whose re-emergence was the most significant event of the day. Ranked outside the top-50 last year, Sato painstakingly climbed back with incremental progress.
After a close first round win over Korea’s Kim Na Young (21-15 20-22 22-20), she overcame qualifier Kim Hyang Im (Korea), Japanese compatriot Kana Ito and China’s Shen Yaying in the semi-finals before outpointing Singapore Open champion Sun Yu in the final. Sun Yu had enjoyed a breezy ride to the final, even beating local hope Bae Yeon Ju in straight games in the semi-finals, 21-8 21-8.
The big surprise in Men’s Singles was the tame loss of top seed Son Wan Ho in the semi-finals to Lee Dong Keun. Having beaten his higher ranked compatriot 21-13 21-16, Lee Dong Keun went on to outlast veteran Lee Hyun Il 17-21 21-14 21-14 in the final. Lee Hyun Il had earlier beaten the likes of China’s Shi Yuqi in the third round and compatriots Heo Kwang Hee and Jeon Hyeok Jin in the subsequent rounds.
Men’s Doubles top seeds Lee Yong Dae/Yoo Yeon Seong, fresh from winning four World Superseries in a row, retired in the quarter-finals against compatriots Lee Jhe-Huei/Lee Yang midway through the first game. Lee/Lee were beaten by the two Kims, who went on to outplay compatriots Ko Sung Hyun/Shin Baek Choel 16-21 21-18 21-19 in the final.
The Women’s Doubles final too was an all-Korea affair. Chang Ye Na/Lee So Hee just about holding off Jung Kyung Eun/Shin Seung Chan, 21-7 16-21 21-19 for the title.
Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na won their third Mixed Doubles title in a row beating compatriots Shin Baek Choel/Chae Yoo Jung 19-21 21-17 21-19.