(Photo: Badmintonphoto)
Title defence: Class Act by Akane Yamaguchi
Date: 8/30/2022 9:24 AM
Published by : Yash Sharma

In what will be remembered as a extremely high-quality thriller, both the players gave it their all till the end. Unfortunately, there can only be one winner.

In words of the legendary commentator Gillian Clarke, “It just keeps getting better and better”. The statement is certainly true for the women’s singles category.

The fact that the Top 4 are clearly the best in business was clear as they all made the semifinals. Fortunately for us, they all also happen to belong to different generations: Tai Tzu Ying rising to the scene followed by Akane Yamaguchi, with Chen Yufei making her presence before the latest addition of An Se Yong.

As it turned out, the middle two contested the final. Impressively, it was the battle between the Olympic champion versus the world champion. The home favourite Akane Yamaguchi indeed stepped up to bring her best game this week.

It was business as usual as the Japanese hero won the first game. However, Yufei showed her worth as the Olympic champion by turning the tide in her favour in the second. While Yamaguchi was uncomfortable adjusting to the drift, Yufei stepped up with sharp positive attack. With Yamaguchi dropping her first game in the entire tournament, anything could happen.

As Steen Pedersen pointed out, “Yamaguchi has to keep it 11-6 or 11-7 before the change of ends to have a good chance. Otherwise, Yufei will be the favourite.” Indeed, the home star had a considerable lead in the decider. Moreover, she did not let playing at the worse side affect her. In contrast, it was the Chinese who started feeling the pressure of the widening gap.

Yamaguchi quickly closed out the monumental battle 21-12, 10-21, 21-14. She showcased her unparalleled retrieving ability and an astounding understanding of the unfolding game pattern throughout the tournament.

Akane Yamaguchi is clearly the best Japanese women’s singles player ever. The not-so-tall athlete proved the Chinese coaches wrong once and for all, who had once dismissed her by saying something along the lines of “you can do only so much with a small height”.

First-ever gold for Malaysia

Aaron Chia/ Soh Wooi Yik denied the Daddies a fourth gold as a pair. Mohammad Ahsan/ Hendra Setiawan missed out on equalling Cai Yun/ Fu Haifeng’s record following their first-ever loss in the World Championships.

The Malaysians trailed 18-12 in the opener and their rivals looked set to take the opener. However, they showed great courage by playing contrary to their usual attacking style. Not unlike in the semifinals against the hard-hitting Indians, they constantly kept lifting the shuttle to both deep corners. Absorbing all the pressure through steady defence, the Malaysians turned the tide.

A physically demanding 71-shot rally late in the first game proved to be decisive. As Steen Pedersen commented during the second game, “Ahsan seems to be affected by the physicality of that rally. He is not explosive on his attack anymore.” Indeed, the Indonesians kept up with the Malaysians till the middle of second game. However, the age told as they faded away despite their best efforts later in the match.

Winning 21-19, 21-14, Chia/ Wooi Yik more than just redeemed themselves for the Commonwealth Games loss. They handed Malaysia its first-ever gold in the World Championships. The magnitude of the achievement is clear in the fact that it is something that the legendary Datuk Lee Chong Wei could not do.

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