Big Dreamers in Perfect Sync

Big Dreamers in Perfect Sync

There’s an ambitious new Japanese women’s pair on the circuit.

Although five established tandems from their country sit above them on the world rankings, the nine-tournament-old Rena Miyaura/Ayako Sakuramoto have been boosted by their excellent showing during the recently-concluded European leg of the HSBC BWF World Tour.

Miyaura/Sakuramoto won two of the three Super 300 events they participated in – the Swiss Open and the Orleans Masters. It made them the only women’s pair to triumph more than once on the World Tour this year. Starting the year at world No.72, they were 55th before the shuttle was hit in Basel. Miyaura/Sakuramoto have now risen to 25th after losing just two of their 17 matches in 2023.

Their next big goal?

“By the time we got to Europe, we had already set our sights on Paris. Our target is definitely the Olympics,” said Sakuramoto. “We knew the first step was to move up the rankings, so this European leg was very important to pick up points ahead of the Olympic qualifying period (which starts 1 May). In that sense, these three tournaments have been brilliant.”

Sakuramoto and Miyaura were crowned winners in Switzerland after compatriot Yuki Fukushima pulled out of the final injured.

Having been around the senior circuit for 10 years, the 27-year-old Sakuramoto, who reached a career high world No.9 with Yukiko Takahata in 2019, acknowledges this could be their final chance to play at an Olympic Games.

“Age wise, we are not exactly at the ideal end but we’ve made the most of our respective experiences up until now. Rena has great confidence and tries her best, so it’s amazing to have her by my side. Right now, it seems Paris is what we are aiming for.”

Miyaura, also 27, is upbeat, encouraged by the immediate chemistry she was able to strike with Sakuramoto. They aced their debut tournament, the Canada Open, in October.

“From the beginning we felt comfortable playing together,” said Miyaura, who previously could not crack the top 200 in women’s doubles with Sayaka Hobara and Saori Ozaki. “Ayako and I, we feel in perfect sync, there’s no sense of incongruity at all.

“Our focus before coming to Europe was to win all three Super 300s. Unfortunately, we couldn’t in Spain. But we are still delighted to leave with two in the bag.

“For Paris 2024 to become a reality, the ultimate deciding factor will be having little to no errors in matches. That’s what we will work towards.”

On the podium as Canada Open champions.