The All England Championships in Birmingham are one of the most prestigious events in Badminton. A victory in this arena would be a career highlight for any participant and therefore this tournament has seen many amazing matches and emotions. The 2018 edition brought us a very special moment in the mixed doubles category.
Badminton Magic Moments: Road to the Title for Japanese Mixed
R32: 18-21 21-18 21-16 vs. Tang Chun Man/Tse Ying Suet of Hongkong China
The first round was a tough nut to crack already for the unexperienced Japanese pair. Tang and Tse were a Top 10 Mixed at the time and had achieved great results. But they kept cool and got through a very close battle in the decider.
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R16: 21-17 21-19 vs. Jacco Arends/Selena Piek of the Netherlands
Although the second game was pretty close, this was a rather easy match, since team Japan was always in control and it felt like Yuta and Arisa could have stepped their game up, if necessary.
QF: 18-21 21-15 21-15 vs. Chris Adcock/Gabby Adcock of England
The home crowd was once again longing for a British victory and had put their hopes on married couple Chris and Gabby Adcock. Of course the experienced pair were the favourites in their quarterfinal against the young Japanese newcomers Arisa Higashino and Yuta Watanabe. These two had made their mark in the Badminton circuit a year before in the Sudirman Cup, where they beat the Chinese combination Zheng Siwei/Chen Qingchen. Apart from that – due to injury problems – they had not yet received any remarkable results.
Actually this is the match that made me become a fan of Higashino/Watanabe. At the beginning I was rooting for the English pair and was happy to see them winning the first game narrowly. I had the feeling that the Adcocks would somehow get through this with their experience, although Watanabe showed flashes of his brillance in the first game already. But it should go another way. Slowly but steadily the Japanese Mixed took control of the match. They both finally settled their nerves, Yuta dominated with his touch and Arisa was deadly at the front court. The Adecocks tried everything, but games 2 and 3 went to Japan.
SF: 21-14 21-18 vs. Zhang Nan/Li Yinhui of China
Since they had impressed me so much on Friday, of course I was eager to see them again on Saturday morning. This time they were up against Chinese Mixed Doubles Legend Zhang Nan with his new partner (since Zhao Yunlei had retired). And this match was nothing less but stunning, especially by Yuta Watanabe. With his reactions, speed and surprising cross court shots he forced Ooohs and Aaaahs from the crowd regularly. Even Zhang Nan couldn`t cope and it ended in a very clear victory in straight games. Never would have thought that.
F: 15-21 22-20 21-16 vs. Zheng Siwei/Huang Yaqiong of China
Their amazing performance in the semis raised expectations for the final against world number 1 Siwei/Yaqiong. And I have to say, the first game was pretty disappointing. It seemed like Yuta and Arisa were nervous, they just played business as usual. No creativity or daring shots. Of course you have no chance like that against this strong Chinese combination. They were pretty much blown of the court in Game 1. Luckily in Game 2 Japan got of to a good start and gained some confidence. Yuta was able to get through the Chinese defence with his dropshots and Arisa started to challenge Huang at the net and was very agressive. So they were able to create a huge gap towards the end of the game. However a few close points lost and the nerves crept back in. China came closer and closer, resulting in match points for the Number 1. That`s were Arisa Higashino stepped up and saved them with very brave interceptions. They took this momentum into game 3 and were always in the lead. Yuta was just brilliant and on the other side Zheng Siwei got more nervous every second. So the upset was unavoidable. At 20-16 Yuta leaped into the air, thundering a smash at Siwei, which he completely missed and after that it was pure joy on the Japanese youngsters faces. They sank to the ground in disbelief. For me this was one of the most beautiful stories and magical moments, the All England Championships have ever written!