The 2017 Crown Group Australian Badminton Open came to a close with thrilling action across the board, but it was Japan who reigned supreme with three wins from five matches.
India’s Srikanth Kidambi clocked his second consecutive SuperSeries win, defeating the reigning World and Olympic Champion Chen Long in an exciting two-game match.
Kidambi came into the match with all the momentum, having won the Indonesian Open last week and cruised through every match in Sydney with confidence unlike Chen, whose matches had been a little up and down.
“I am not really thinking too much about winning,” Kidambi said.
“In all the breaks I really had the advantage so my coach just told me to keep it going and not make any stupid mistakes that would allow him to get back into the match.”
Srikanth set up his attack and broke Chen’s defence continuously well throughout the match, using his aggression on the court to dominate the play and keep Chen in check.
“I think it worked really well for me. I’m not really sure why, but I am really happy that it did.”
Chen was disappointed to lose the final, given it is the last SuperSeries in Sydney, but said he was overall not unhappy with his performance.
“As a whole I played very well, but since I arrived in Sydney I have had gastroenteritis and have had diarrhea, so I have not been at my best physical condition. But since I made the final I wanted to continue to play as well as I could.
“After I go back to China I am going to compete in the Chinese National games immediately so it is going to be tough.”
The first match of the day saw Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi take on her compatriot Nozomi Okuhara – and with both players knowing each other’s game so well, it was always going to be tight match. Okuhara came into the match with rhythm and aggression and Yamaguchi just couldn’t quite find the form that she has shown all week.
Okuhara subsequently took out the opening game 21-12, producing flawless shots that Yamaguchi couldn’t match and making her increasingly nervous and uneasy on court.
In the second game, Okuhara again dominated the play at the start but Yamaguchi found her form, pushing the game to 23-21 in her favour, and forcing it to a third game.
It was point for point in the final game, with nothing separating the two players, until Okuhara managed to gain control of the rallies and put a few points between her and her teammate. With three match points, Okuhara sealed the deal and won the match 21-12 21-23 21-17.
Hailing from Nagano, Okuhara dedicated her win to her home town, which suffered a powerful 5.6 magnitude earthquake earlier in the day.
“I wanted to send good news to my home town,” Okuhara said. “So I worked hard for everyone who supported me to make them be happy.”
“Yesterday I said that I wanted to show that women’s singles in Japan is at a high level so in this match when Akane Yamaguchi really fought in the final game, we showed that.”
Injured since winning bronze at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, Okuhara has been working hard to regain her strength and her confidence.
“After the Olympics I had an injury and I have been a bit nervous. But this year my target tournament is the World Championships and step by step I am better. I wanted to see how far I could go so I played the game hard and I am glad about it and feel happy about the result.
“My physical condition was not well in Indonesia. But now here in Australia I wanted to play more like myself and find my own rhythm.”
JJapan’s Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda won men’s doubles title, taking out the match 21-17 21-19 over the mixed nation combination of Hendra Setiawan (Indonesia) and Boon Heong Tan (Malaysia).
It was the second SuperSeries title for the improving Japanese pair, and has given them confidence heading into the upcoming World Championships in August.
“We won the title at the Hong Kong tournament and we didn’t expect to win another tournament, so we feel so happy about this win,” Kamura said.
“Because this tournament is just before the World Championships, we now need to seriously think about how to compete there.
“We haven’t thought much about the World Championships before and we didn’t participate in that competition a lot in the past. But from now on, we need to think and practice more for it, because we think at least that could be a match that could connect us to the top players.”
In a repeat of the 2016 Olympic final, Japan’s Misaki Matsumoto and Ayaka Takahashi met Denmark’s Kamilla Rytter Juhl and Christinna Pedersen, and like in Rio, the Japanese emerged victorious.
The Japanese pair started very strongly with a 21-10 opening game, and took the second almost as easily 21-13.
“I was happy to play the game hard with my partner and happy that we won,” Takahashi said.
“I am happy about winning because we worked together and worked hard. We watched the Danish match yesterday and they did a good job so we thought our opponents did well and glad that we could win,” Matsumoto added.
Pedersen and Rytter Juhl said that they could really not compete with the Japanese athletes’ style of play today, which was pretty much perfect.
“They were just better than us in all aspects,” Rytter Juhl said.
“Physically, mentally, they move a lot better than us, they can see what is going on faster than us.
“We started off here in Australia with me lying in bed for two days with illness, so to have come back and be standing here in the finals day is awesome and we are really happy about that.
“I am not sure that we could have become the champions, even if we had won in two sets yesterday,” Pedersen added. “But to have played an extra 30 minutes really hard fight yesterday, we used a lot of energy and we could feel that today.”
Despite a strong start, Indonesia’s Praveen Jordan and Debby Susanto could not hold on to win the mixed doubles, going down 18-21 21-14 21-17 to China’s Zheng Siwei and Chen Qingchen.
Zheng and Chen, the number one ranked mixed doubles partnership in the world, did not have a smooth run in the match, having to fight back from being a game down and trailing in the deciding game.
“There were a lot of ups and downs in this match,” Zheng said. “In the first game we were leading and then caught up. In the third game we were behind 1-9 but then we managed to catch up. So it would help us a lot to reflect why we were able to catch up and why we were caught up.
“To lose one game is normal and we expected it before the match, however even though we lost the first game and during the third game our points were way behind, we didn’t want to give up and we believed that we could catch up.”
The pair will now return to China for the Chinese National Games and prepare for the World Championships where they will take confidence from this SuperSeries win.
For a full spread of the competition results, go to: http://www.tournamentsoftware.com/sport/tournament.aspx?id=F0D1C54B-EF2E-4ED7-8E0F-2139EF1FB98E