Lee Chong Wei wins Yonex Japan Open as Korean Lee Yong-Dae returns to badminton courts
On June 15, 2014, the Yonex Open Japan came to an end with some good news to the badminton fans around the world. In January this year, Olympic badminton gold medalist Lee Yong-Dae and fellow-South Korean Kim Ki-jung were banned from playing for a year on a dope-related offence. The Malaysia based Badminton World Federation had announced that two Koreans were guilty of hiding information required for its testing program of international level players. Lee was a mixed doubles gold medalist at 2008 Beijing Olympics and he also took the bronze in men’s doubles at London in 2012. While BWF had imposed the ban until January 2015, the players appealed against such long layoff. In April this year, BWF reversed the sanction so that the players could start playing immediately. It was, therefore, heartening to see Lee Yong Dae making a glorious return to the BWF World Super series circuit with a victory in the Men’s Doubles of the Yonex Open Japan 2014. Other winners in the Super series were; Lee Chong Wei, Japanese women doubles pair of Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi, China’s Li Xuerui, Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei.
The victory of Lee Yong Dae and his partner Yoo Yeon Seong was the most emotional event of the competition. Fellow badminton players were sympathetic to Lee because his ban was based more on administrative lapses and not on failing any dope test. It was a nice gesture from BWF to grant him reprieve. Lee partnered with Yoo Yeon Seong in men’s doubles and their opponents were the Indonesian World champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan. The Koreans made a good start using deft placements and smashes to win the first game 21-12. In the second game, however, the world champion pair did not allow the Koreans much liberty and raced away to a 13-7 lead. With Setiawan’s incredible net caresses, Koreans kept losing points. However they recovered but still trailed 15-19. Just when it seemed that the Indonesians will pocket the second game, Lee and Yoo raised their game and fought back to save two game points to make the score 20-20. Going forward, the world champions had three more game points but Lee and Yoo didn’t give up under pressure and held a match point of their own. They lost that point but had another at 25-24. This time the Koreans held their nerve and finished as winners by 21-12, 26-24.
In men’s singles final world no.1 Lee Chong Wei had Hong Kong’s Hu Yun on the other side. Hu Yun had created waves earlier in the tournament by beating players like China’s Chen Long and Denmark’s Jan O Jorgensen. But he didn’t know how to play the legendary Chong Wei, a man who has dominated the men’s singles field for a decade now without showing any signs of a let up. Lee began the dominance straight away and Hu Yun didn’t know how to respond to the fierce down-the-line smashes and sharply angled volleys created by Lee, who jumped and shot. Despite Hu’s attempts to curtail Lee’s onslaught by moving to the backhand corner, Lee won’t leave him. There were a few occasions, when Lee dived full length to retrieve sure winners and sent the shuttle back in Hu’s court. In the second game Hu briefly led 12-10 but the Malaysian showed him why he is the world champion by reeling point after point to finish the game and the match at 21-14, 21-12. It was the third title for Lee Chong Wei at the Yonex Open Japan and his 38th World Super series victory.
In the women’s singles final, the top seed Li Xuerui of China faced Chinese Chinese Taipei’s Tai Tzu Ying. Tai has had a good tournament and she wanted to show her command in the final as well. But after a brief show of fine badminton, when the Chinese was briefly unsettled in the first game, Tai couldn’t hold her nerves in the match. She had a poor run in the second game and finally Li Xuerui outplayed Tai 21-16 21-6. It was Li’s 10th World Super-series titles from 17 finals.
In other matches, China’s defending champion mixed doubles pair of Zhang Nan and Zhao Yunlei easily retained their title against Michael Fuchs/Birgit Michels of Germany, 21-12 21-16. In the women’s doubles, the Japanese Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi won their first World Super-series title from compatriots Miyuki Maeda and Reika Kakiiwa, 21-13 21-17.