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Badminton: Japanese singles stars double up in Dubai Finals

Nozomi Okuhara beat Wang Yihan in the women’s singles final.

Nozomi Okuhara edged Wang Yihan in the women’s singles final. Photo: BadmintonPhoto / Raphael Sachetat.

December 14, 2015: Japan achieved an unprecedented sweep of the singles titles at the Dubai World Superseries Finals, with young stars Kento Momota and Nozomi Okuhara making it a grand double on Sunday.


Momota enjoyed a one-sided win over Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen after Okuhara had emerged victorious from a difficult battle against China’s Wang Yihan. The defensive Okuhara produced another defensive masterclass in breaking down the attacking Wang, winning the singles title without dropping a game all week.


Okuhara threatened to run away with the match at 14-6, but Wang fought back and caught up at 16. Wang had game point, but Okuhara enjoyed two slices of luck with the shuttle clipping the tape and closed it out by trapping Wang deep in her backhand corner.


The pattern reversed in the second game with Wang jumping ahead 15-9. It was here that the Japanese’s great reserves of mental fortitude came to the fore, keeping the shuttle going in marathon rallies until the former world champion appeared visibly drained. Six straight points gave Okuhara the title.


“I wasn’t moving well as I was fatigued and not able to give 100 per cent, but I wanted to keep myself strong,” Okuhara said.


“It was a tough game. I’m happy I could recover emotionally in the second game despite losing a string of points. All year I have been thinking of winning this title. It had been emotionally very difficult. There was a period when I couldn’t play and all those thoughts came to me when I won the final point.”


Axelsen’s precision that he demonstrated so well against Chen Long was missing in the men’s singles final. The Dane was constantly frustrated by his soft errors and never got going. The match slipped away early and the Dane was not quite able to show the patience to work his way back in.


“I watched Axelsen yesterday and he played close to perfect,” said Momota. “I had a specific strategy against him and it worked. I felt I was lucky on a few points.”


Axelsen conceded that his semi-final win over Chen had taken too much out of him.

“I used up a lot of my mental energy yesterday and I probably didn’t have enough today. My legs felt heavy. I was just not good enough. I used a lot of my mental power against Chen and it cost me a lot.”


Source: BWF World Superseries / Dev Sukumar (; Editing by SportAsia

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