• Kyodo


Japan’s world No. 1 pair of Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi claimed their second Japan Open badminton women’s doubles title on Sunday, defeating South Korea’s Kim Ha-na and Kong Hee-yong in straight games.

Takahashi and Matsutomo, gold medalists at last summer’s Rio de Janeiro Olympics, edged their 122nd-ranked opponents 21-18, 21-16 in 56 minutes at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.

At last year’s tournament, the 2014 Japan Open champions Takahashi and Matsutomo were beaten in the final.

“I was really happy to set foot in the final for the second straight year, but I entered the court thinking I wanted to get make up on last year’s defeat,” Takahashi said. “So I’m glad that the two of us won together.”

Takahashi led the attack with her smashes, while Matsutomo’s footwork allowed her to retrieve the South Koreans’ shots to set up Takahashi’s attacks in the front of the court.

The local heroes came from behind in the first game, winning six straight points to take a commanding 20-17 lead.

Kim and Kong, who are playing in their third professional tournament together, were error-prone in the second game, dashing their hopes of taking home a Superseries title.

“I haven’t played Kim in a while, but I thought she was really good,” Matsutomo said. “I noticed that we still have room for improvement. I’m looking forward to facing the pair again.”

Takahashi said she wants to keep improving their record after claiming their ninth Superseries title.

“I’m not satisfied with just nine titles. I want two-digit wins,” Takahashi said. “I’m not sure how far I can go, but I want to keep improving.”

In the women’s singles final, Rio Olympics gold medalist Carolina Marin claimed her first Japan Open title, defeating China’s He Bingjiao 23-21, 21-12.

However, two-time world champion Marin will have to wait to get her revenge against Japan’s world champion Nozomi Okuhara, who defeated her at the worlds in August. Okuhara withdrew from the tournament due to a knee injury, handing Marin a spot in the final.

“After losing to Okuhara at the worlds, it was really tough for me. I learned from my mistakes and just had to keep my confidence high,” Marin said. “I’m really disappointed I couldn’t play her, but I hope to see her strong on the court.”

Later in the day, Lee Chong Wei of Malaysia failed to capture his seventh Japan Open victory in the men’s singles final, losing to Denmark’s world champion Viktor Axelsen 21-14, 19-21, 21-14.

The 23-year-old Axelsen, the world No. 2, found his rhythm early in the match, while Lee, 34, struggled and allowed him to take the first game. The 194-cm Axelsen used his significant reach to return the shuttle even when the 172-cm Lee made him run across the court.

In the men’s doubles, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia eased past Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko 21-12, 21-15 in just 30 minutes, while in mixed doubles, China’s Wang Yilyu and Huang Dongping defeated Takuro Hoki and Sayaka Hirota 21-13, 21-8.

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