YONEX OPEN JAPAN Draws Decided: Qualifiers Promise Heated Matchups
Heated Encounters from the Very First Day
The matchups for this year's YONEX OPEN JAPAN were announced on August 19th with all eyes on men's singles. One of the tournament's biggest names is getting his start in the qualifiers—five-time YONEX OPEN JAPAN champion Lee Chong Wei. Provided he wins his way into the main draw, the Malaysian national hero will meet Thailand's Boonsak Ponsana in the first round. These two veterans both have Superseries titles under their belts which should prove for a heated match right from the very first round. But Chong Wei's road to a sixth YONEX OPEN JAPAN title promises more explosive matchups.
A potential matchup with Lin Dan awaits Chong Wei in the second round, with Chen Long waiting in the third—this tournament's quarterfinal. Lin Dan is a two-time Olympic medallist and five-time world champion, with Chen Long just earning his second BWF World Championships gold medal, and also winning at this tournament in 2011. They are no doubt strong rivals for the Malaysian shuttler, who has more losses against them than wins. Huge matchups like these only occur in the finals of most tournaments, but this year's YONEX OPEN JAPAN is predicted to have a series of heated matches through to the semifinal.
Former World No. 3 Kenichi Tago from Japan will be competing from the qualifying rounds for the first time in eight years. If the local shuttler can make it into the main draw, he faces No. 2 seed Jan O. Jorgensen. The two met in the finals for both the 2013 Yonex French Open and 2014 Indonesia Open, with the Dane coming out on top in both encounters. However, with Chen Long, Lin Dan and Chong Wei on the other side of the draw, if Kenichi can get past Jan, he has a good shot at making it into the final.
Moving away from the qualifiers, young Japanese ace Kento Momota is the local favourite to win this year's tournament. Awaiting him in the first round is a re-match with this year's World Championships bronze medallist, Wei Nan of Hong Kong. He will go on to face Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto in round 2, and Wang Zhengming in the quarterfinal. They should prove to be tough opponents despite their lower rankings, but given young Kento's position as the No. 4 seed, he should be able to reach the quarterfinal, and face one of the tournament's Top 3—Chen Long, Lin Dan or Chong Wei. In order for Kento to carve out a place for himself among the world's best, meetings with players like these are crucial.
Jan has his eyes on his first Superseries victory for the year at this tournament. He made it to the finals at the Yonex All England Badminton Championships and at the Indonesia Open—will he be able to clutch victory at YONEX OPEN JAPAN?
The Unstoppable Carolina Marin
Spain's Carolina Marin is unstoppable. After securing her second straight World Championships gold medal, all the shuttler had on her mind was preparing for her next tournament—YONEX OPEN JAPAN. She is poised as the champion for this year's tournament, already collecting titles at three others tournaments this year in addition to the World Championships. The question on everyone's mind is: Can anyone stop this veritable force of nature on the court?
She meets local shuttler Yui Hashimoto in the first round, who just edged a close win over the two-time world champion in the first round of the Indonesia Open this past June. She has her eyes on a place in the Olympics, but ranking-wise she has will have a tough time—entry into the games requires a ranking within the global Top 16 and within the Top 2 in one's country. However, Yui will have her Olympic qualification in sight if she can keep her determination to win strong.
Another name to look out for in women's singles is local shuttler Akane Yamaguchi. The high schooler declined a chance at this year's World Championships to instead participate in her last high school badminton tournament, where she won for a third straight year. This marks her first international tournament in three months after the Yonex US Open back in June. At YONEX OPEN JAPAN, she faces an intimidating opponent right from the first round: Korea's Sun Ji Hyun. Akane has yet to win against the World Championships bronze medallist in three encounters. Will the young shuttler face another early exit in a repeat of last year? Check in after the first round to find out.
China is looking to make up for their performance at the World Championships where none of the country's players remained in the final four. China's top 3 at this tournament are made up of No. 3 seed Li Xuerui, No. 6 seed Wang Yihan and No. 7 Wang Shixian. The three have their crosshairs focused on taking down No. 1 seed Marin and No. 2 seed from India Saina Nehwal—with gold and silver World Championships medals to their names respectively. Strong names in women's singles also include No. 4 seed and 2012 champion Tai Tzu Ying from Chinese Taipei and No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon from Thailand. Both faced early exits at the World Championships, and are expected to be back with a vengeance in Tokyo.
The World Champions Appear in Tokyo
2015 world champions and 2013 YONEX OPEN JAPAN titlists Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan from Indonesia are the No. 3 seeds at this year's tournament. They face local shuttlers Kenta Kazuno and Kazushi Yamada in the first round. World Championships bronze medallists, 2014 champions, and No. 1 seeds from Korea Lee Yong Dae and Yoo Yeon Seong also face local opponents Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko in round 1 if the Japanese pair can make it through the qualifiers.
One of the most highly anticipated first round matches proves to be a retake of the World Championships quarterfinal—No. 2 seeds Mathias Boe and Carsten Mogensen from Denmark and China's Liu Xiaolong and Qiu Zihan. The Chinese pair was victorious at the World Championships, but the Danish pair is likely to strike back. The Chinese pair went on to fall at the hands of Japanese pair Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa in the semifinal.
Top Seeds and Defending Champions Face Tough Road
Japanese shuttlers and No. 1 seeds Ayaka Takahashi/Misaki Matsutomo are under high pressure as the defending champions to snag this year's title. The two stopped at the round of 16 at this year's World Championships against a Malaysian pair, and have not managed to place high at the tournament for three consecutive years. With mental weight heavy on their shoulders, will they be able to close in with their trademark plays? They face an Indian pair in the first round once again this year, and their performance there will determine the rest of their path. The match that fans want to see will put them against Chinese doubles specialist Ma Jin—an opponent who they two have yet to win against.
Chinese Pair Eyes Fourth Consecutive Title
The top seeds at this year's tournament are Chinese Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei, who will be looking at a fourth title at this year's tournament in a continuation of their three consecutive titles. They are poised to face No. 3 seeds Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir from Indonesia in the semifinal. However, the World No. 1 pair is not expected to lose.