It was a marathon match which lasted a good 1 hour 51 minutes and badminton fans at the Putra Stadium in last year’s Malaysian Open gave Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara a standing ovation despite her 19-21, 21-15, 20-22 defeat to China’s former World No 1 Wang Shixian in the quarter-finals.
Nozomi had cramps during the match but she stayed till the end – fighting tooth and nail – but collapsed soon after Shixian’s winning point. A crying Nozomi was given a piggy ride to the medical room for treatment.
The marathon match is probably the longest ever badminton match played in a tournament in the history of the shuttle game until now.
The Japanese lass who is dubbed “The Fighter” is returning for this year’s Malaysian Open which will be held at the Malawati Stadium from April 5-10. Badminton and fans can expect much from Nozomi this year.
Last week Nozomi gained sweet revenge of Shixian by lifting the prestigious All-England women’s singles title with a nail-biting 21-11, 16-21, 21-19 win in the final to give herself a perfect 21st birthday present.
The All-England title came in the wake of her triumph in the Super Series Finals in Dubai in December. Nozomi has come of age in her badminton career.
In the All-England semi-finals she dumped top seed and defending champion Carolina Marin of Spain with a 11-21, 21-16, 21-14 win.
For the Malaysian Open, Nozomi – a former world junior champion – is seeded No 8 and opens her campaign against Thailand’s Busanan Ongbumrungphan
Defending champion Marin is the top seed. The current World No 1 and reigning world champion plays Hong Kong’s Yip Pui Yin in the first round and is expected to meet Malaysia’s top shuttler Tee Jing Yi in round two. The Malaysian’s first round opponent will come from the qualifying rounds.
China’s Li Xuerui is seeded No 2 and will face a Japanese threat in Akane Yamaguchi – another of Japan’s rising stars in the women’s singles.
India’s Saina Nehwal who had a poor outing in the All-England this year after reaching the final last year, is seeded No 3 and takes on Thailand’s Nitchaon Jindapol in the first round.
Former world champion Ratchanok Intanon is seeded No 4 while Shixian is seeded fifth with compatriot Wang Yihan at No 6. Korea’s Sung Ji-hyun is the No 7 seed
- Carolina Marin (Spain)
- Li Xuerui (China)
- Saina Nehwal (India)
- Ratchanok Intanon
- Wang Shixian (China)
- Wang Yihan (China)
- Sung Ji-hyun (Korea)
- Nozomi Okuhara (Japan)