Badminton: Tenacious Akane Yamaguchi gets Superseries Dubai Final prize

World No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi stretching to retrieve the shuttlecock deep in her backcourt. A tactical switch when she was a game and 0-5 down helped her to come back to level the match as the Japanese proved too strong in the rubber game.
World No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi stretching to retrieve the shuttlecock deep in her backcourt. A tactical switch when she was a game and 0-5 down helped her to come back to level the match as the Japanese proved too strong in the rubber game.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

She outlasts Sindhu despite an uneven start; fitter and younger Axelsen beats Lee for men's title

DUBAI • At the end of the day, it was probably down to who was more desperate to clinch the top prize.

Despite trailing, world No. 2 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan fought back to defeat India's Pusarla V. Sindhu 15-21, 21-12, 21-19 to win the women's singles title at the BWF World Superseries Finals in Dubai yesterday.

"During the entire match I saw the trophy placed on the side of the court and I thought, 'I want this trophy, I want this'," the top-seeded Japanese said after the hard-fought win at the Hamdan Sports Complex.

Meanwhile, her opponent Sindhu was fighting back her tears. "This is really hard as I was so close to getting the title," said the 22-year-old Indian, who was also the runner-up in the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio and this year's World Championships in Glasgow.

At the start of the match, Sindhu showed strength in her agile and speedy play and was rarely challenged in the first game. In the second, the 20-year-old Yamaguchi trailed 0-5 at first but a tactical change gradually gave her the upper hand.

"I changed my tactics and kept the shuttlecock high in the second game," she said.

Midway through the game, Sindhu appeared exhausted and suffered from unforced errors to let her Japanese opponent level the match.

In the third set, Sindhu again started positively but could not maintain her momentum. The two shuttlers exchanged leads till the score was tied at 18-18.

Yamaguchi then proved she was stronger than her opponent both mentally and physically and wrapped up the match for her first World Superseries Finals title.

"It was (a) really tough battle but I was able to enjoy the match thanks to the cheers from the spectators," she told The Japan Times.

"I was hoping they would enjoy watching it."

In the men's singles final between the world's top two players, Dane Viktor Axelsen, 23, confirmed his No. 1 ranking by beating Malaysian veteran Lee Chong Wei for the third straight meeting, 19-21, 21-19, 21-15.

While the pair matched each other stroke for stroke in the first two games, the 12-year age gap proved too much for the 35-year-old Lee in the decider.

Lee fell from his No. 1 standing in June and dropped further to eighth after crashing out in the first round of the World Championships in Scotland in August. He then moved up to the No. 2 spot after winning the Hong Kong Open last month.

The Malaysian beat Axelsen in their first nine matches before losing their previous two meetings - at the World Superseries Finals (group stage) in Dubai last year and the final of the Japan Open in August.

Three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee won the Finals in 2008 (Kota Kinabalu), 2009 (Johor Baru), 2010 (New Taipei City, Taiwan) and 2013 (Kuala Lumpur).

ASIA NEWS NETWORK/THE STAR, XINHUA

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 18, 2017, with the headline 'Tenacious Yamaguchi triumphs'. Print Edition | Subscribe