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Badminton: Just sweet 16, Yamaguchi makes Superseries history in Japan

Akane Yamaguchi, 16, won the Yonex Open Japan to become the youngest women’s singles winner of a Superseries tournament.

Akane Yamaguchi, 16, won the Yonex Open Japan to become the youngest women’s singles winner of a Superseries tournament.

September 23, 2013: Akane Yamaguchi became the youngest women’s singles winner of a Superseries tournament when the 16-year-old Japanese won the Yonex Open Japan on Sunday. World No. 1 Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia successfully defended his men’s title, beating local hope Kenichi Tago.

 

Yamaguchi capped a fairytale run at the event, the teenager beating Shizuka Uchida 21-15 21-19 in an all-Japanese final. The two finalists had already created history a day earlier by ensuring the first-ever title for Japan in the event’s 32-year history.

 

Yamaguchi’s triumph was the culmination of an amazing journey, as the schoolgirl, ranked 145 in the world, survived two qualifying rounds before beating the likes of eighth seed PV Sindhu of India in the second round and defending champion Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei in the semi-finals, when Uchida knocked out former World No. 1 Wang Yihan.

 

Lee Chong Wei successfully defended his Japan Open crown.

Lee Chong Wei successfully defended his Japan Open crown.

While the women’s final signalled the arrival of an exciting new talent, Lee retained the men’s singles title to reassert his dominance of the Superseries circuit with a record 33rd tour victory.

 

The long-time World No. 1 dashed the hopes of Japanese fans, overcoming a stiff challenge from local hope Kenichi Tago, beating the seventh seed 23-21 21-17.

 

Lee had a 13-0 record against Tago heading into the final, including victories in four Superseries finals. The Japanese gave a fine account of himself and forced the top seed to come up with his very best. The match saw some big punches and counter-punches from both ends, with Tago leaping high at every opportunity to send his powerful smashes crashing down.

 

Lee kept himself in the hunt with his high-quality defence, but Tago’s sustained intensity saw him earn three game points at 20-17. The champion’s fighting qualities came to the fore at this point, as his explosive smashes homed in with accuracy and Tago found himself a game adrift.

 

Watched by his mother, former international Yoshiko Yonekura, Tago had a narrow advantage at the mid-game interval in the second, but a few errors proved costly and he was unable to keep the pressure on Lee the way he had done in the first game. A final body smash helped the champion retain his title.

 

In the men’s doubles, BWF World Championship winners Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan won their third Superseries title on the trot and fifth title this year, the Indonesians beating China’s Chai Biao and Hong Wei.

 

China won the women’s doubles and mixed doubles crowns. In the women’s, top seeds Ma Jin and Tang Jinhua won their first title this year with a clinical victory, 21-11 21-14, over third seeds Christinna Pedersen and Kamilla Rytter Juhl of Denmark.

 

Second seeds Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei received a walkover from top seeds Xu Chen and Ma in the mixed for their fourth Superseries title this year. Zhang and Zhao improved their record over Xu and Ma to 14 wins against just two losses.

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