It was a case of out with the old, in with the new at the Victor Korea Open, as a doubles master was given the perfect send-off while a Japanese prodigy shone in the women’s singles. Gruffudd Owen reports
From a final flourish …
On home soil, the doubles great Lee Yong Dae bade farewell to international badminton in the most fitting manner with a 43rd and final BWF World Superseries victory at the Victor Korea Open. After announcing his retirement prior to his participation in the men’s doubles event, the 28-year-old went on to claim a memorable title win alongside his partner Yoo Yeon Seong, edging past Chinese duo Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen in three games. “Today was such a difficult match and it was really great to play in front of so many fans,” he told the BWF afterwards. “This is my last match in international badminton and I am so happy to have won.”
to a statement of intent
As one badminton great bowed out in style, Japan’s Akane Yamaguchi showed why she could one day be considered in the same bracket with an impressive display in the women’s singles. Just 19 years old, it would nevertheless be erroneous to describe the teenager’s triumph as a breakthrough performance. After all, her maiden BWF World Superseries victory came in the 2013 Japan Open at 16, where she became the youngest ever champion of an elite-level tournament. However, after overcoming home favourite Sung Ji Hyn in three games in Korea, Yamaguchi will feel confident ahead of December’s Dubai Finals – a tournament she is likely to qualify for thanks to this most recent title win.
Qiao Bin capitalises on weakened field
With the top four players in the men’s singles rankings all opting to sit out of the Victor Korea Open, it was up to China’s Qiao Bin to take full advantage of the weaker-than-usual draw as the unseeded 23-year-old took home his first BWF World Superseries title, upsetting Son Wan-ho in the final. Although the world no. 41 is unlikely to see this landmark victory propel him into contention for the Dubai Finals, it bodes well for the future, with time certainly on this youngster’s side.
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The hosts deliver in emphatic fashion
At one point it seemed as if South Korea would complete a crushing clean sweep of all titles at the country’s premier badminton competition, and while defeats in both singles’ finals ensured that this wasn’t to be, their domination in all three doubles event still provided the fanatical Korean fans with plenty of reasons to celebrate. As well as Yong Dae’s glorious swansong, there were victories for top seeds Jung Kyung Eun and Shin Seung Chan in the women’s doubles and for the mixed pairing of Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na.
The Destination Dubai leaderboard hots up
And so the tour heads to Europe for the YONEX Denmark Open in mid-October, where the pressure will be on for the sport’s leading shuttlers to deliver if they are to make it to the Dubai Finals. Men’s world no. 2 Chen Long currently sits outside the top-eight cut-off in the Destination Dubai rankings after missing the previous two BWF World Superseries events, while in the women’s game, world no. 1 Carolina Marin also faces a battle to qualify. Can they deliver?