After winning the Thailand International Challenge in Bangkok last week, Korea’s 34-year old veteran Lee Hyun Il won the men’s singles trophy at the Yonex Sunrise Malaysia Masters Tournament that concluded in the Malaysian city of Kuching on January 18, 2015. This was Lee’s way of telling the Badminton World that the Bangkok triumph was no fluke and he still had the shuttle fire burning within him. It may be recalled that during the Asian Games at Incheon, Lee figured as a crucial link in helping the Korean team take the badminton gold. The women’s singles was won by Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara, who defeated her compatriot Sayaka Takahashi. For a change, the badminton powerhouse China did not figure among the winners as Japan took the men’s doubles and Denmark walked away with women’s and mixed doubles titles.
Before meeting compatriot Jeon Hyeok Jin for the title game, Lee Hyun had made good progress at Malaysian Masters this year. In the second round, the Korean defeated second seed Hu Yun of Hong Kong and overcame the third round challenge from India’s 13th seed Sai Praneeth. He faced another tough challenge in quarterfinal from Malaysia’s Mohamad Arif Abdul Latif and entered the final by beating Thailand’s seventh seed Tanongsak Saensombooksuk. The final was closely fought but Lee finally prevailed19-21 21-13 21-15 to corner the glory. The losing finalist Jeon Hyeok Jin had even tougher passage into the final as he had to play four matches, all of which went to three games. In the third round, Jin defeated Yunus Alamsyah of Indonesia 21-17 19-21 21-18 and in the quarterfinal he fought with Malaysia’s Malaysia’s Soo Teck Zhi before coming through with the score-line of 16-21, 21-14, 21-10. In the semifinal, India’s Ajay Jayaram proved to be a tough customer as well but Jin beat the Indian10-21, 21-17, 21-16.
In the final, Lee Hyun Il played without showing any signs of slowdown on account of his age. Ranked 38th in the world, Lee began well but lost the first game narrowly at 19-21. He came back strongly in the second game against Jin, who is just 19 years of age. Playing a much faster game that belied his advancing years, Lee equaled the game score to 1-1 by taking the second game 21-13. In the decider, Lee kept the momentum going and used his vast experience to take the game 21-15 and the honor of being named as the men’s singles champion of the 2015 Yonex Sunrise Malaysia Masters.
The women’s final also was an all-Japanese affair in which the 2012 world junior champion Nozomi Okuhara played a powerful game against compatriot Sayaka Takahashi. The 19-year old Okuhara had just been named in Japan’s senior team. On Sunday, she celebrated the news by beating her senior compatriot Takahashi 21-13, 21-17 and taking the Women’s Singles crown. In the first game Okuhara opened a big 5-0 lead and never looked back. The second game was closer initially but Okuhara was able to pull away every time Takahashi closed the gap. Earlier, in her passage to the title match, Okuhara had dropped just one game in her five matches. It was in the hard-fought semifinal match against India’s PV Sindhu that Okuhara faced some difficulty. Otherwise it was a smooth sailing for the eventual champion all the way. Incidentally, Okuhara was also a finalist at the Hong Kong Open in November 2014.
Japan added another title to their names as Kenta Kazuno and Kazushi Yamada took the Men’s Doubles crown. In a tenacious battle, the Japanese pair finally overcame the challenge by eighth seeds Chen Hung Ling and Wang Chi-Lin of Taiwan 21-19 14-21 21-17. Earlier in the tournament top seeded pair of Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart of singapore had suffered a shock defeat in the opening round against Malaysia’s Chooi Kah Ming/Teo Kok Siang. But the Malaysians lost the quarterfinal thriller against the Taiwanese pair of Chen/Wang.
Denmark won two doubles matches on the final day. in the women’s doubles, Christinna Pedersen combined with Kamilla Rytter Juhl to completely outplay the Japanese pair of Naoko Fukuman/Kurumi Yonao 21-14, 21-14. The top seeded Danes did not allow the Japanese women any foothold in the match in their emphatic victory. Later, Pedersen teamed up with Joachim Fischer Nielsen in the Mixed Doubles final and defeated the Indonesian pair of Praveen Jordan/Debby Susanto 21-18, 21-18.