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Kumiko OGURA's "DAIHATSU YONEX JAPAN OPEN 2017" Tournament Report

Across the 6 days from the 19th of September, the "DAIHATSU YONEX JAPAN OPEN 2017" was held at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium in Tokyo, Yoyogi. The various happenings of this highest ranked world tournament in Japan shall be reported by Kumiko OGURA.

This year's Japan Open as seen by Kumiko OGURA

This tournament was one where the great progress of the Japanese players caught the eyes of many

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The ones that left the greatest impression during this tournament was as expected, the Japanese players. 12 teams of Japanese players, with each making it into the Best 8 position of their category could be considered a great achievement. Among them, 3 teams of 6 players in total even made it to the finals. This is an unprecedented result. Eventually, only the TAKAHASHI and MATSUTOMO pair from the Women's Doubles category emerged as champions. While the INOUE and KANEKO pair from the Men's Doubles category and HOKI and HIROTA pair from the Mixed Doubles category unfortunately lost, they still managed a first runner-up position. Thus, it could be said that they did sufficiently well.

However, I feel that they absolutely should not be satisfied with this. Being a tournament organized at home, the performance of the Japanese players gets a boost. The thoughts of displaying good plays in front of their Japanese fans and the stubbornness of not wanting to lose to their fellow Japanese players arises, thus they display persistence in each of their play. With the strength they possess, never giving up till the very end. This tournament is one that has such additional feelings for them.

Of course, I think that results such as being the champion and the first runner-up are wonderful and these will result in great confidence boosts for the players. However, what is important is to continue producing results even after this tournament. I hope that they become players with abilities to constantly produce results in any country and environment, not just in tournaments organized in Japan. By constantly winning, they will understand their position within the world and receive recognition from the other foreign players as well. So I hope they can turn their victory this time at the Japan Open into confidence and connect it to their future. Because, the fight towards the 2020 Tokyo Olympics has already begun.

Regarding the finals

The Men's Singles Finals: The match at the world's summit

The finals for the Men's Singles between Viktor AXELSEN from Denmark and LEE Chong Wei from Malaysia was a great match worth the title of being the fight of the century. I think that for the Legend of the Badminton world: LEE Chong Wei, the Japan Open is a special tournament. He possesses perfect technique and footwork, never lets up, always plays his best and even his character is serious and gentlemanly. Even in Japan, he has many fans. He himself loves Japan and always leaves good results at this tournament. In fact, he has won this tournament 6 times thus far. His 7th win was on the line this time, unfortunately he lost to AXELSEN. AXELSEN had just won the world championship organized in August and this time he had great momentum. He has always made well balanced plays in both attack and defense. While he is tall and also possesses a large physique, this time he seemed even bigger. The match was brought into the full games and against AXELSEN's powerful plays, even LEE Chong Wei was unable to match up this time.

The Women's Singles Finals: The offense and defense of the first game decided its outcome

For the Women's Singles, great hopes were placed on Nozomi OKUHARA who took the Gold medal in the world championships. Unfortunately, she had to withdraw from the semi-finals. Yet if we were to consider her future, it could be said that this was inevitable. In this tournament, Aya OHORI and Sayaka TAKAHASHI, the younger players who were the B representatives displayed performances that left an impression. As both of them could have won their quarter-finals match, it was not too much to wish for their victory there. Also, Akane YAMAGUCHI, who was a contender just like OKUHARA was unfortunately stopped at the Best 8 position.
The finals was one between Carolina MARIN from Spain and HE Bingjiao from China. For this match, the last part of the first game was the deciding factor for the whole match. While reaching the game point once, Binjiao was caught up to and even brought to a deuce by MARIN who she lost to eventually. It seemed that Bingjiao's concentration broke at that point. The following second game probably ended before she could even get back up from the shock of the first game. I certainly felt the cruelty of Badminton, where one play could decide the outcome of the whole match.

The Men's Doubles Finals: A match swallowed up by the atmosphere of the centre court

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For the Men's Doubles, high hopes were initially placed on the "Sono-Kamu" pair consisting of Keigo SONODA and Takeshi KAMURA who unfortunately lost with a Best 8 position. In a turn of events, the Russian pair who were their opponents lost to the Takuto INOUE and Yuki KANEKO pair, who then advanced to the finals. However, in the finals, they lost to the indonesian pair consisting of Marcus Fernaldi GIDEON and Kevin Sanjaya SUKAMULJO with a straight loss. As expected, the great stage known as the centre court in the Japan Open had a intimidating atmosphere and the pair couldn't help but be swallowed by its pressure. Of course, the Indonesian pair was a great adversary who climbed up to the finals with their high quality plays that specialized in low air battles below the net. They were not players that could have been beaten easily. However, even beyond that, I think that the INOUE and KANEKO pair were simply swallowed up by the tense atmosphere of the finals in a world tournament and thus could not display their own play till the very end. I believe that this must have been a match that was difficult to swallow for both of them. As the two of them are still young, if possible, I was hoping for them to charge in with greater aggression and emotions. Again, I believe that this was a great experience for the two of them, and this lost will feed their growth. I look forward to their future performances.

The Women's Doubles Finals: The World's Taka-Matsu pair showed their abilities

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This match was the first time in 3 years for Ayaka TAKAHASHI and Misaki MATSUTOMO where the champion title for the Japan Open was on the line. Their opponents this time were KIM Ha Na and Hee Yong KONG from South Korea and the "Taka-Matsu" pair won 2 consecutive games and beat them with a straight game, brilliantly achieving their second champion title. In this match, the combination of the two players were simply perfect, I think they attacked with a great rhythm from start till the end. Even their receives were aggressive, as if they were attacking instead of defending. They almost never crumbled, and even when they did, they got back up as if nothing happened and took back their rhythm. Throughout the match, there were almost no point where they seemed to be in danger. While the flow of the match almost changed when KIM Ha Na, who guarded the front sped up while displaying a feint, TAKAHASHI made a calm judgement, identified the opponent's weakness and delivered a smash. She did not let go the flow of the game. This was a match that displayed the best of both TAKAHASHI and MATSUTOMO.

The Mixed Doubles Finals: The first finals for a Japanese pair in this category

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Not just for the Japan Open, but even for any Super Series, this was the first time that a Japanese pair made it to the finals for the Mixed Doubles category. Indeed, the Takuro HOKI and Sayaka HIROTA pair made a great achievement. Overturning their previous reputation, the HOKI and HIROTA pair continued their great progress from the qualifying round. However, in the finals, I believe that just like the Men's Doubles, they got swallowed up by the tense atmosphere of the finals in a world tournament. Until the semi-finals, their movement were good and they beat their opponents with their aggressive plays. However, in the finals, both of them were stiff and their movements had stopped. WANG Yilyu and HUANG Dongping from China were able to freely manipulate the speed and course of the shuttle. Guarding the front, Dongping's fast touch and accurate shuttle handling, while at the rear, Yilyu's height and speed kept the HOKI and HIROTA pair at their mercy. As the Mixed Doubles has a match set up totally unlike the Men's and Women's Doubles, the two players have to increase further their accuracy for each play. I think that just momentum alone is not enough to easily win China, let alone the world. Since both players also compete in the Men's and Women's Doubles, I think this was a good experience for them. Especially for HIROTA in front, the experience of playing with a male player in a match will come alive during her Women's Doubles matches.

Winner's Interview

Misaki MATSUTOMO/Ayaka TAKAHASHI Pair
(Women's Doubles Champions)

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TAKAHASHI

After the Rio Olympics, the first Super Series that I participated in was this tournament last year and there I felt the bitterness of losing in the finals. Thus, I walked into the court this time with the strong desire to win. The Korean pair that we fought against in the finals today had great momentum, but we felt strongly that our combination will not lose and we fought showing that.

MATSUTOMO

In tournaments overseas, we tend to compete amidst a background of foreign languages but today, when we were competing we received loads of cheers from the audiences and it made me feel: "Ah, this is home." I felt fortunate to receive cheers from so many people during the match.

Marcus Fernaldi GIDEON/Kevin Sanjaya SUKAMULJO
(Men's Doubles Champions)

For the tournament this time, I think we performed very well throughout the match. While a little of the fatigue from the Korea Open last week remained, by the time we won the 2 matches, we were able to bring back our pace. Especially for the semi-finals and the finals, we were able to enjoy the match. To be honest, I thought that the finals would have been a closer match, but I think the opponents were also a little nervous. Since we could not win the Korea Open, I think that becoming the champion for this tournament held great meaning to us. (Translated)

24 September (Sun) Finals Match list

Category Player name Match results
Women's Doubles Misaki MATSUTOMO/Ayaka TAKAHASHI (Japan)
2-0
KIM Ha Na/Hee Yong KONG (South Korea)
21-18,
21-16
Men's Doubles Marcus Fernaldi GIDEON/Kevin Sanjaya SUKAMULJO (Indonesia)
2-0
Takuto INOUE/Yuki KANEKO (Japan)
21-12,
21-15
Mixed Doubles WANG Yilyu/HUANG Dongping (China)
2-0
Takuro HOKI/Sayaka HIROTA (Japan)
21-13,
21-8
Women's Singles Carolina MARIN (Spain)
2-0
HE Bingjiao (China)
23-21,
21-12
Men's Singles Viktor AXELSEN (Denmark)
2-1
LEE Chong Wei (Malaysia)
21-14,
19-21,
21-14

The end of the tournament and towards 2020

As a big step towards TOKYO2020

During the tournament this time, the great progress of many Japanese players like the "Taka-Matsu" pair stood out, but another thing that left an impression on me was that the whole atmosphere of the Japan Open tournament had changed. With the addition of Daihatsu as a sponsor this year, the tournament name had also changed to "DAIHATSU YONEX JAPAN OPEN 2017". But what had changed was not only the name, I think the scale of the whole tournament itself also expanded. Components like the decorations of the venue and the presentation of the matches had changed, and the whole tournament seemed to have become more geared towards entertainment. As with its name, it felt like the event evolved to be more like a world tournament. The sheet that was matched with the red colour of Daihatsu was especially memorable, it seemed to produce a sense of unity throughout the venue. Following the previous tournament, productions such as opening acts consisting of live performances and announcements in DJ style that hyped up the audiences were incredible. Everyone seemed to enjoy cheering and I believe this also better motivated the players. I think that such things increasingly gather attention towards Badminton and I thus hope for a greater hype towards year 2020.

Now, more and more young players are being nurtured in Japan's Badminton scene. I think that the level in Japan as a whole is increasing year after year, and being chosen as the Japan representative player is getting harder. Thus, greater hard work and results will be demanded of the players as well. Towards the year 2020 Tokyo Olympics, I think that Japan's Badminton will get even stronger and interesting. To everyone, please support the Japanese players fighting at the world stage.

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Kumiko Ogura (Ex Japan Representative for Women's Badminton)

Born in year 1983 in Mie prefecture. She starts playing Badminton at the age of 8. In year 2000, she achieves 1st runner up for the High School Nationals and in year 2001, achieves 1st runner up for the National High School Selections. After joining Sanyo Electric in year 2002, she emerges as champion for the All Japan Badminton Championship Singles. She switches to be a Doubles player subsequently, and achieves 5th place for the Beijing Olympics and 5 consecutive champion for the All Japan Badminton Championship. She retires in January 2010.

To the Official Website
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