(Photo: Badmintonphoto)
Heartbreak for Astrup/ Rasmussen; a successful outing for Japan
Date: 10/25/2021 10:35 AM
Published by : Yash Sharma
While the Danish favourites lost the men’s doubles title clash to the Japanese duo, the badminton powerhouse Japan also scored victories in women’s singles and mixed doubles. 

Following a rough patch after winning silver at the 2019 World Championships, the third best Japanese pair Takuro Hoki/ Yugo Kobayashi elevated their game to the highest level. In turn, the home favourites, already feeling the pressure, fell short of the prestigious title. 

- Since we were under a lot of pressure to do well in Denmark, it was not our best game. We need to play our best in order to have a fair chance to win against such pairs. Anything short of that is simply not good enough, Astrup acknowledged. 

- The Japanese pair played a solid game today and made it very difficult for us throughout the match. There is no shame in losing to a better pair, he continued.

After a close opening game, numerous errors crept in the game of Kim Astrup/ Anders Skaarup Rasmussen. As a result, Hoki/ Kobayashi ran away with the crown 21-18, 21-12. 

- We played some of our best badminton this week. However, it’s disappointing that the final was not closer. We would have loved to win the title, Astrup said. 

The Japanese duo is finally in the limelight now, having remained in the shadow of their more illustrated compatriots Hiroyuki Endo/ Yuta Watanabe and Takeshi Kamura/ Keigo Sonoda so far. 

- We have won a Super 1000 tournament for the first time and this will definitely boost our confidence. Our strategy was to counter Kim’s technical supremacy at the front court and push the shuttle further back. It worked out well, especially because we had a winning mentality this time, Hoki was ecstatic. 

Simply spectacular by Akane Yamaguchi 

In a gruelling women’s singles final, the in-form Akane Yamaguchi got the better of An Se Young to level their head-to-head at three apiece. The beginning of the match suggested an easy victory for the Korean. Yamaguchi did not seem to have any strategy and simply returned the shuttle to keep the rally going. As the match progressed, the Japanese struggled to decide whether to go for an all-out attack, or rally to keep the youngster running. 

- I was struggling physically and my body just stopped moving. The cheering of the fans in the stadium got me going in the second game and I’m thankful for that, Yamaguchi was humble. 

Having lost the opener and down a match point in the second, it was an otherworldly defence that came to her rescue. The drama unfolded as a 65-shot rally followed and the fans were treated to the highest quality of badminton during the extra points. 

- I felt that Se Young was rushing a bit as she desperately wanted to win it in two games. Therefore, I persevered and rallied, the Japanese explained. 

A dramatic finish 

Going into the decider, Yamaguchi was on a roll and Se Young had to request for the medical help multiple times. With the 19-year-old struggling to keep up and wasting time in between the rallies, the umpire was forced to show her the yellow card and later, the red card. 

In the end, it was too much for the flagging and cramping teenager. She had hit a wall in form of Akane Yamaguchi. Given an ever-increasing emphasis on reducing the risk of injury to the athletes, her coach should probably have thrown in the towel earlier. However, to take nothing away from the eventual winner, the Korean’s fighting spirit needs to be applauded. 

- I had prepared well for her rallying game as she likes to run a lot. I wanted to convert on the first match point, but unfortunately it didn’t work out. I will try to win the next time, Se Young conceded.

Yamaguchi won 18-21, 25-23, 16-5 following Se Young’s retirement. The thrilling final was indicative of much more to come, when the missing top four in the world join the mix: Chen Yufei, Tai Tzu Ying, Nozomi Okuhara, and Carolina Marin. 

Victory for Yuta Watanabe/ Arisa Higashino 

The Japanese duo always remained in control of the mixed doubles final as they got the better of the Thais Dechapol Puavaranukroh/ Sapsiree Taerattanachai for the third time. After pocketing the opener, the Olympic bronze medallists ran away with the second game. It was an easy victory 21-18, 21-9. 

- Yesterday’s win against the Olympic champions filled us with the confidence to win the title. We are very happy about the title, Watanabe enthused.  

Will the surprise element wane off? 

In the only final not featuring a Japanese athlete, the scratch pairing of Huang Dongping/ Zheng Yu got the better of Lee Sohee/ Shin Seungchan. The Chinese have had an element of surprise on their side in this tournament. Additionally, an all-out attack approach worked well for them as the Koreans crumbled under the unrelenting pressure and made mistakes at the crucial moments. Dongping/ Yu won 21-15, 21-17 in straight games. 

- Since they are a new match, we could not analyze their style beforehand. By the time we got used to their speed and power in the second game, it was too late to make a comeback, Seungchan offered.  

One wonders if such an approach will turn out be a one-time thing as other pairs get accustomed to the aggression. Clearly, there was nothing fresh on display by the new pair in terms of techniques and tactics currently prevalent in women’s doubles. 

- We just did a quick preparation for the final and tried our best. The Koreans seemed to be limited and were not playing their best. We are surprised and happy to have won the Denmark Open as a new combination, Dongping cheered. 
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