China’s young brigade walked away with final day honours at the Yonex Open Japan 2016, while Lee Chong Wei, Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl struck a blow for the older generation.
‘Superseries King’ Lee Chong Wei’s victory over Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen gave him his sixth Yonex Open Japan title; for Pedersen and Rytter Juhl, it was their first Superseries title in nearly three years.
China’s youthful team’s success will probably be seen as the most significant of the day. The new Chinese faces on the winners’ podium signified that the powerhouses are ready for the post-Rio Olympics world — what made the results particularly impressive was that two of their three winners had never been in a Superseries final before this.
And yet, He Bingjiao (Women’s Singles), Li Junhui/Liu Yuchen (Men’s Doubles) and Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen (Mixed Doubles) showed they have the verve – not to mention the skills – to come good on the big day.
At the other end of the spectrum was Lee Chong Wei, all of 33, having made the final of the Rio Olympics a month ago, who scrambled out of difficulty against a doughty opponent, 21-18 15-21 21-16.
Jorgensen might look back at the Men’s Singles final with regret at the opportunities he missed. The Dane was flying in the second game and much of the third, capitalising on his exceptional defence and Lee’s uneven game.
The World No.1 wasn’t his explosive best, even as he faced an opponent rapidly gaining in confidence. At 2-6 and 5-8 in the third, and having lost both his line challenges, the plot appeared to be going awry for the Malaysian.
The game turned subtly: Jorgensen’s impatience on a couple of rallies cost him dear. Lee caught up at 11 and got steadier; concurrently, Jorgensen eased the pressure with a few soft mistakes. Coupled with two stunning net shots from Lee – the Malaysian caressed the shuttle over the tape from close to the floor – the moment was lost for Jorgensen.
“Jorgensen’s condition was very good today,” Lee Chong Wei said. “This event is special for me, it’s my sixth title. I was determined to win it. The secret to my success has been to keep fighting, never to give up.”
The victory will see Lee shoot into the lead on the Destination Dubai Rankings. The Malaysian has won three Superseries this year — in Malaysia, Indonesia and Japan — more than any other Men’s Singles player. The top eight players on the Destination Dubai Rankings in each category are invited to the Dubai World Superseries Finals (December 14-18 at Hamdan Sports Complex).
He Bingjiao has fought off deficits in nearly every match this week. Today it was compatriot Sun Yu’s turn to be at the receiving end.
Despite being down 0-7 and 10-13 in the third, the younger player stayed calm, keeping the pressure on her taller opponent with sharp netplay and attacks down the flanks. The 21-14 7-21 21-18 result gave the Youth Olympic Games champion her first Superseries title in her first final.
“There’s responsibility on us to follow in the steps of our seniors,” He Bingjiao said. “In a sense, it was good that my opponent had the early lead in the third game since I could chase her and put the pressure on her.”
The 9,200 points gained will see He Bingjiao move up from her current Destination Dubai Ranking of No.12, putting her in contention for a spot in the year-ending Dubai Superseries Finals.
Pedersen/Rytter Juhl On Top
Just a few weeks after Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi snatched a last-gasp win in the Olympics Women’s Doubles final, Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl exacted a measure of revenge on their opponents’ home turf. It was the Danes’ first Superseries title since December 2013.
Not even after Matsutomo and Takahashi had stolen the first game from the Danes’ grasp at 17-19 in the first did Pedersen and Rytter Juhl flag. The match played on high intensity all through, several rallies being fought long and hard before either team inched ahead.
Having lost the first after holding a lead, the Danes found themselves 7-12 down in the second. It was at this stage that the fightback came – sustained assaults from Rytter Juhl at the back and Pedersen’s quickness at the front gradually chipped away the Japanese’s hold on the game. The match slipped away from the Japanese quickly in the third, and the Danes found themselves celebrating the 19-21 21-18 21-12 victory.
Rytter Juhl was relieved that they’d finally won a major title after being in several finals and semi-finals over the last three years.
“We were second in the World Championships, the Rio Olympics and the Dubai World Superseries Finals. That’s why I’m emotional… finally we won! To win a Superseries is really nice!”
“We’re proud and happy, and not only because we won the title,” said Pedersen. “Since the Olympics there have been many things going on, lots of ceremonies, and we got only a few weeks’ practice.
“We watched a lot of videos. We watched the Olympic final once again, and we had a big smile even though we’d lost – because we’d played well. We found a good way to play their attacking game.”
Li/Liu On Rampage
Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Gi Jung were blown away in 37 minutes of fierce attacking badminton by Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen, who picked up their debut Superseries title. At no point in the match did the experienced Koreans seem likely to haul back the rampaging Chinese; they were given no breathing space as their young opponents were all over them from the start. Forced to defend for much of the match, the Koreans were quickly outclassed, 21-12 21-12.
“We couldn’t catch up after we fell behind early in the match,” Kim Gi Jung said. “Their attack was very good and they were very sharp in the service situations. We weren’t able to react well enough to their play today.”
Much the same story played out for Ko again in the Mixed Doubles, as he and Kim Ha Na found themselves under the gun from Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen. Thirty-one minutes was all it took for Zheng/Chen to wrap up the affair 21-10 21-15 and crown themselves Superseries champions for the first time.
“I’m really thrilled to win my first Superseries,” said Zheng. “We’d lost one final earlier. We’ve shown we have the skills to win a Superseries.”
Chen said their next aim was to get into the top 8 – a reference to the qualification requirement for the Dubai World Superseries Finals. The Chinese duo is currently ranked No.28 but their performance in Japan will go a long way in helping them make their debut at the season-ending gala in Dubai.