Big in Tokyo – Japan Para Badminton International: Day 1

“Huge” was the buzz word on the first day of the HULIC DAIHATSU Japan Para Badminton International 2019 at the Yoyogi Gymnasium in Tokyo, which will also be the venue for the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics Para badminton competition.

“I’ll have to have a very good sense of the shuttle movement because I can’t hear it. This is a huge space and there’s already a lot of noise and we can expect a lot more during the Paralympics,” said Chan Ho Yuen of Hong Kong China.

Celine Aurelie Vinot of Australia added: “The lights are so bright that it’s easy to lose sight of the shuttle if you’re looking up in some angles but it’s an amazing venue and maybe one of the biggest I’ve played in.”

The first day of the Test Event was a trial for many of the world’s best Para badminton players, some of whom were pushed to the limit while others breezed through their first and second round group matches, barely breaking a sweat.

Tarun (right) is not quite ready in his comeback.

Return to the Big Leagues

India’s Tarun Tarun attempted a comeback after missing out on the chance for a World Championships title in Basel 2019, but retired in the second game at 2-5 after losing the first 15-21 to Charawat Kitichokwattana of Thailand.

“I wasn’t confident moving around and then I felt a jerk [on the injured left knee] when I was reaching for a shot so I thought it best to stop. I don’t want to risk making it worse. I’ll continue with rehab and my doctors say I should be fully fit for my next tournament which is in February next year,” said Tarun, who returned to full-time training in October.

Yuma Yamazaki of Japan was also back on court, looking in good form after last month’s victory at the Victor Denmark Para Badminton International 2019.

Yamazaki is looking good on home ground.

“After I withdrew from the World Championships, I’ve slowly been getting back in the game and I am better now,” said Yamazaki, who with Wheelchair (WH1-2) women’s doubles partner Sarina Satomi beat China’s Xu Tingting and Zhang Jing 21-15 22-20.

“Today has been long and hard. We both played very strong opponents in singles and doubles but we kept calm and focused on each match,” she added.

In the women’s singles Wheelchair 2 (WH2) category, Yamazaki defeated Thailand’s Amnouy Wetwithan 21-18 12-21 21-15, while in WH1 Satomi was also taken to three games in her match against Zhang before she triumphed 21-15 17-21 21-17.

“I do feel some pressure after winning the World Championships but I remained focused on my matches today. I do think I can be mentally stronger and I tend to get tense so my coach is always telling me to relax,” said Satomi.

Match of the Day

Belgium’s To Man-Kei and Israel’s Nina Gorodetzky engaged in a battle of wits in their first women’s singles WH1 match of the tournament with To emerging victorious 21-11 17-21 22-20.

“It was a mentally challenging match for me. It’s happened before and I kept thinking ‘not again’ because I have to beat her to advance here,” said To, speaking about losing to Gorodetzky in three games at the FZ FORZA Irish Para Badminton International 2019.

To took the first game 21-11 rather quickly but lost 17-21 in the second. She then trailed Gorodetzky but managed to reach deuce before finishing 22-20 for the match.

“I am faster and more powerful but when I saw the draw and having to play Nina in my first match in this venue, I just was not quite into the game yet in the beginning. It’s a huge venue and I’m not used to it. It’s nice but I can’t hear the shuttle being hit like in the smaller venues,” she added.

Gorodetzky and To are drawn in the same group as Germany’s Valeska Knoblauch and Henriett Koosz of Austria.

A special way to celebrate turning 18 for Kajiwara.

“All strong women but we’re all also good friends so there’ll be some interesting matches for us,” said To.

A disappointed Gorodetzky said: “I made a lot of mistakes and when she came to deuce, I kept telling myself I just needed one point and then one more but she got it.”

Other Results

Japan’s young rising star in WH2, Daiki KAJIWARA celebrated his 18th birthday on Wednesday with three wins.

In the men’s singles, he defeated Grant Manzony of Australia 21-3 21-8. He then partnered Hiroshi Muruyama to beat Spain’s Roberto Galdos/Francisco Motero 21-4 21-5, and Mikhail Bilenki (Canada) and Piero Rosario Suma (Italy) 21-1 21-4, in the WH1-2 men’s doubles.

“It’s been a good day. I played well and it’s special to be able to start this tournament on my birthday,” said Kajiwara.

In the men’s singles Standing Upper (SU5) category,  fifth/sixth seed Tay Wei Ming (Singapore) lost to Turkey’s Ilker Tuzcu in the SU5 men’s singles, 21-13 14-21 11-21, while all other seeded SU5 players won their first group matches.

Israel’s Amir Levi, the third/fourth seed in the WH2 men’s singles, lost to China’s Mai Jianpeng, 19-21 19-21, while the fifth/sixth seed Kim Kyung Hoon (Korea) fell to another Chinese player, Zhao Xin, 18-21 21-19 16-21.

Quote of the Day

“It’s a ‘wow’ feeling that I am now playing in this stadium that I may possibly play in at the Paralympics next year. It’s a large stadium but I love the space, and the noise from all the cheering will be fun.” – Brazil’s Vitor Goncalves Tavares.

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