Badminton: Giving hope for Olympic gold

ODENSE (Denmark) • Nozomi Okuhara showed that she will be a strong contender to win badminton gold on home soil at next year’s Tokyo Games after defeating reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin 21-19, 21-17 at the Denmark Open yesterday.

The 2017 world champion returned to the winners’ circle after a two-year absence in style, having last won a title at the 2018 Hong Kong Open.

“I’m happy! Long time no title!” Okuhara, a bronze medallist at the Rio Olympics, told the Badminton World Federation (BWF) website.

“Compared to other opponents, Marin is faster and has a harder attack. I was focused on defence and footwork, and my feet moved very well today. Overall the match went well for me.”

The world No. 4 did not drop a single game in five matches en route to the title at the prestigious US$750,000 (S$1.02 million) Super 750 tournament.

The event marked the resumption of the BWF World Tour season following a seven-month shutdown due to the Covid-19 crisis.

Marin was dominant in their last meeting, winning their Indonesia Masters round-of-16 clash in January 21-13, 21-15 to take a 9-7 head-to-head lead into the showdown.

A repeat looked on the cards when the three-time world champion went up 5-3 but she never led again in the opening game after Okuhara drew level at 5-5.

It was a similar story in the second game, when Marin held a 2-0 advantage. But Okuhara won the next three points and never looked back. The 25-year-old sealed the win in the battle between two former top-ranked stars after 56 minutes with a rare smash winner.

Victory over the Spaniard at the Odense Sports Park ended her losing run in finals, having finished runner-up the last six times.

More on this topic

That streak included last year’s loss to Tai Tzu-ying here. She also fell to the Taiwanese star at last year’s Singapore Open title decider.

World No. 6 Marin said her inconsistency cost her.

“I think the main reason was the mistakes I made. I made all the winners but also all the errors. The game was on me,” said the 27-year-old. “It was frustrating. I knew during the game that I was giving her all the points. I tried to keep calm but today wasn’t my day. I couldn’t come back.”

Earlier, Okuhara’s compatriots fought it out in an all-Japan women’s doubles final. Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota beat Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara 21-10, 16-21, 21-18.

English duo Marcus Ellis and Chris Langridge won the men’s doubles title, defeating Russian pair Vladimir Ivanov and Ivan Sozonov 20-22, 21-17, 21-18.

Anders Antonsen, silver medallist at last year’s world championships, claimed the men’s singles title with a 18-21, 21-19, 21-12 win over compatriot Rasmus Gemke.

Sign up for our daily updates here and get the latest news delivered to your inbox.

Get The Straits Times app and receive breaking news alerts and more. Download from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store now.

Source: Read Full Article