Medalists Take the Court in YONEX OPEN JAPAN Round 1
The YONEX OPEN JAPAN 2016 qualifying rounds have come to a close, and we now head into the main draw. Competitors are all mentally and physically preparing themselves for the big day.
This year's tournament once again features many exciting matches right from the very first round. Players set to compete include Lee Chong Wei, Viktor Axelsen and Nozomi Okuhara.
|Lee Chong Wei (MAS)||VS||Boonsak Ponsana (THA)|
In a repeat of last year, these two badminton veterans are facing each other once again in YONEX OPEN JAPAN's opening round. This marks the 29th time these two will meet. Lee Chong Wei holds an overwhelming advantage at 25-3 head-to-head, but last year's match showed that Boonsak Ponsana had the fighting spirit to get 16 points in against the Malaysian badminton superstar.
While Chong Wei is expected to win the matchup, it will be interesting to see how Ponsana goes up against powerhouse Chong Wei.
|Viktor Axelsen (DEN)||VS||Wong Wing Ki Vincent (HKG)|
Danish No. 2 seed and 2016 Olympic bronze medalist Viktor Axlesen will face Hong Kong's Wong Wing Ki Vincent for the sixth time in the first round. Axelsen holds the advantage at 3-2 head-to-head, but Vincent recently earned his first Grand Prix Gold at the YONEX-SUNRISE Vietnam Open in July, and is showing good form. He's also had 2 months of rest, and is expected to be in top condition.
Conversely Axelsen has mentioned that he still has some fatigue left over from the Olympics, so fans will be on the lookout for how he will get back into top shape for the first round.
|Tanongsak Saensomboon Suk (THA)||VS||Lee Hyun Il (KOR)|
2002 YONEX OPEN JAPAN champ Lee Hyun Il makes his grand return to Japan. At the time, he was a fresh young player, but now he stands as a veteran of the game at 36 years old. Committed to remaining active in competition, the Korean leftie recently won the 2016 YONEX US Open in July. He defeated Japanese hopeful Kanta Tsuneyama in the final in straight games, proving that he still has title-winning strength. Going up against this vet is another leftie— Tanongsak Saensomboon Suk from Thailand. At 25 years old, this attacking player is ranked at World No. 25. He's lost in all 6 meetings against the Korean, and is determined to get his first win against the veteran player.
While general fans will wonder why 36-year-old vet Hyun Il is still at the front lines, he is renowned for his form amongst true badminton enthusiasts, and will certainly convince all the spectators of that when he hits the court.
|Akane Yamaguchi (JPN)||VS||Yip Pui Yin (HKG)|
Olympic quarterfinalist and 2013 YONEX OPEN JAPAN champion Akane Yamaguchi will face a very tough opponent going into round 1.
While ranked at World No. 34, opponent Yip Pui Yin has a silver medal to her name from the 2006 Asian Games, and has performed well at big tournaments throughout her career. A veteran at 29, she has a great deal of experience under her belt.
Yamaguchi is known for her tenacity despite winning or losing. Fans will be on the edge of their seats to see how she can mentally outdo her opponent, and snag the winning chance.
|Lee Chong Wei (MAS)||VS||Boonsak Ponsana (THA)|
Japanese Sayaka Sato was just one step short of making it to the 2016 Olympics. Her opponent? 2012 YONEX OPEN JAPAN champion Tai Tzu Ying.
At 25 years old, Sato has been keeping a high world ranking of 13. Known for her overwhelming power, strong offensive game and keen net play, Sato placed second at last year's Japanese National Badminton Championships. Her opponent Tzu Ying is young at 22, and has a reputation for her free-spirited plays and knack for keeping opponents from grasping her rhythm.
The outcome of the match lies in Sato's hands. Will she be able to keep strong and create the right chances to get ahead?
|Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao (JPN)||VS||Ou Dongni/Yu Xiaohan (CHN)|
Despite reaching third place at last year's BWF World Championships, Japanese pair Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao were just one step away from making into the 2016 Olympics. Their opponents are the 21-year-old Chinese pair of Ou Dongni and Yu Xiaohan who stand at a diminutive World No. 284. The two are still a very new, and their only official match was this past April at the Chinese Masters.
However, China is known for its incredible talent, and there are many cases where even no-name players prove strong. Fukuman and Yonao will have to prove their world ranking of No. 9 to make it past their unpredictable opponents.
|Bodin Isara/Savitree Amitrapai (THA)||VS||Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino (JPN)|
Japanese pair and Japan Ranking Circuit champions Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino will step up to the challenge against Thai World No. 15 pair Bodin Isara and Savitree Amitrapai in the opening round.
The Japanese pair is young at ages 19 and 20, and recently won at the YONEX-SUNRISE Vietnam International Challenge. The final put them up against a different Thai pair, showing that they have an idea of that nation's playstyle. Local fans will be intrigued to see how these two youngsters perform on the grand stage of a Superseries tournament against these two strong opponents.