Saturday, October 1, 2011

Yonex Open Japan 2011

"Part of the reason that I chose to play badminton 
as a profession is because I don't like to study."

Lee Chong Wei
World-number-one player

Yonex Open Japan 2011.

I missed the tournament last year, which saw Lee Chong Wei defeated Lin Dan to win the men's singles title for the second time. This year marks the 30th anniversary of Yonex Open Japan, and I knew I cannot miss it again. My senior, Andrew and I attended the final day of the anniversary tournament on 25 September 2011, held at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, a short one-minute walk from JR Sendagaya Station.


Looking very bersemangat in front of the venue, wearing my orange Team Malaysia Panthera tigris malayensis jersey.


Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, a world-class sporting complex in Sendagaya, Shibuya, Tokyo.


Managed to get our tickets on the day itself at the ticket counter.


The tournament huge board put up at the South wing of the gymnasium.


The matches on the final day started at noon, and the crowd continued to build up towards the first match - the women's double.


That's the North wing, where the VIP seats are located.


The main attention of the final day was none other than the men's singles match.

Yonex Open Japan 2011 is the eighth super series tournament of the 2011 BWF Super Series, offering a total prize money of US$200,000. This is my very first time watching a world class badminton tournament live, and I guess there's no better time to watch it than to see our "grandfather" fighting out for the men's single title.

And ohh, that "grandfather" was actually referring to "Datuk" Lee Chong Wei *hehe*


Bringing the Malaysia Boleh spirit all the way to Tokyo, with our huge Malaysian flags, which we got from Crystal senpai.


A lone Malaysian supporter among the local Japanese, at another corner of the gymnasium.

We joined another three Malaysian friends - Azizul, Hapiz and Raof, who were already at the venue earlier than us. Thanks to them, who reserved a couple of seats for Andrew and me, we managed to create a mini Malaysian group of five adjacent to the main court at the South wing. The small figure however, did not dampen our spirits, as the kiasu spirit within us made us brought three huge Jalur Gemilang along. When I say huge, I mean they were really huge; huge enough to be hung on the wall.

Not the Facebook wall hor, but the wall at your house.

A group of spectators, who were seated one row behind us, realised that we were Malaysians and went there to support Chong Wei when they saw our flags. Immediately, these Vietnamese told us they were a huge fan of Chong Wei (チョンウェイが大好き!) and were there to support him as well. It feels so warm to hear those kind words from these non-Malaysians. In fact, they asked us what's the cheer when they are supporting Chong Wei during the match. We taught them the most common and well-known cheer - "Malaysia Boleh" and "Chong Wei Boleh", which they managed to pronounced it perfectly.


Here comes the pride of our nation - Lee Chong Wei, who made the entry to the main court. Even the referees didn't wanna miss out 
on taking his pictures haha!


The electronic score board announcing the men's single match, between Lee Chong Wei and Chen Long from China. 


Chong Wei, ready to receive a serve from his opponent.


Chong Wei attempted a net-play.


National coach Tey Seu Bock giving some tips to Chong Wei during the interval.


The gesture of clapping hands on the electronic board to signal to the supporters to clap their hands every time there's an interval haha!

The men's single final was between world-number-one and the defending champion, Lee Chong Wei and the upcoming Chinese star, Chen Long. The first game was easily won by the Chinese star, but Chong Wei has only himself to blame for making several unforced errors early in the game. Chen Long continued to dominate the first game with impressive combination of smashes and drop-shots and it finished 21-8 in favour of Chen Long.

However, we all know that Chong Wei is usually a slow-starter and we believed that he would display a much better play in the second game. That's exactly what happened, as his sudden change of pace won him the second game 20-10. He showed his real class with fast-paced rallies, cross-court and steep smashes, and drop-shots throughout the game, that was no match for Chen Long.

With each player won one game each, the crowd waited anxiously for the rubber game. It was certainly a great spectacle for the neutral fans but not for us, who hoped that Chong Wei would get one better over his opponent and defend his title.


Another interval in the second game, and it was a chance for the coaches to have some brief talk with the two players.


The third game, with the score tied at 15-15.

The third and final game went very close, as both players maintained their consistency, making it difficult for either to gain points. With the score 20-19 and Chen in the lead, Chong Wei attacked Chen's net shot with a push but unfortunately, landed no less than an inch out, costing him the championship title.

Right immediately after he got this final and winning point, Chen Long leapt to hug his coaches and went on to celebrate like his senior Lin Dan - he ripped off his T-shirt, cried out in delight and ran around in sheer happiness. That was done without sparing some good few seconds to offer his opponent and umpire a friendly hand-shake. Chong Wei, who stood at the net, looked confused at his opponent's unsportsmanlike antics. Even the Vietnamese behind us commented that it was not a nice sights for everyone, especially the young spectators to see.

I can understand his exhilaration of beating the world-number-one but in spirit of sportsmanship, at least offer his opponent a proper hand-shake first-lah, right? After that, he can do whatever he wants to celebrate his victory, even if he feels like stripping everything off.


Final score of the men's singles championship match.


Chong Wei receiving his prize from one of the VIPs.


Past winner from the 1983 tournament, Han Jian (front row, third from left) from China was one of the VIP at the prize presentation ceremony.

Despite the fact that Chong Wei lost the match, I believe most people would agree with me that he gave an entertaining and good, if not the best performance in the final match. It was certainly an amazing world-class play, both from Chong Wei and Chen Long, that I am almost lost for words to describe it. Watching the match live while feeling the real atmosphere at the gymnasium was a totally different experience than what I've gone through so far - by watching badminton matches from TV.

And did I mention how crazy the Malaysian supporters were throughout the match? We had another bigger group of supporters, mainly comprises of staffs from the Embassy of Malaysia in their yellow Yonex T-shirt with the word "Malaysia" behind it. They were seated at the right end of the South wing, and acted as the chief cheering team. Even before Chong Wei's match started, they already began to practise their cheers during the women's doubles match, such as "Cepatlah habis" haha!

The scene during the men's singles match was however, totally different. The loud cheers from the Malaysian fans of about 30 of us shook the whole gymnasium. Our noise certainly took the local passive fans by a big surprised. Cheers such as "Malaysia Boleh" and "Chong Wei Boleh" were the most common ones, but halfway through the match, we came out with another one - "Dato' Jia You". I asked the rest if they have a Tamil version as well, but they replied that Chong Wei doesn't understand Tamil haha!


The support from the fans who tried to get Chong Wei's autograph just tell us that he was the crowd's favourite.


One of Malaysia's coaching staff giving our hero a pat on his back for his effort.

Although most of us lost our voice after the match - I had a sore-throat on the next day lol! - it was worth every decibel we gave when we cheered for Chong Wei. It was rather interesting to see that he received louder applause than Chen Long when they were exiting the court. Great to see that the crowd appreciate top-quality play from the player, no matter they won or lost their match.

After Chong Wei's match, our stomach was empty, our throat was dry and it was time to recharge. We took the opportunity to wander around the few exhibition corners.


Saw this kid in a yellow T-shirt bearing the name of Lee Chong Wei. While most of us are so proud of wearing jerseys of Liverpool and Real Madrid, 
it was refreshing to see a Japanese to wear a jersey bearing a name of a Malaysian.

What I noticed from the crowd on the final day is that the average age of the spectators was perhaps around twenty-plus. I saw they were many junior high school and high school students who went there to watch the tournament. Although there were no Japanese players playing on the final day, they did not want to miss out on seeing world-class players pitting against each other.

I guess badminton is indeed reaching new ground in Japan, especially among the younger generations. I am not surprised that in five years, Japan will produce a top player able to challenge in the world championship.


The history of Yonex Open Japan, which began in 1982.


Roslin Hashim, the first Malaysian player to win the men's singles title ten years ago.


The poster for the 30th anniversary tournament.


Lee Chong Wei and Taufik Hidayat, arch rivals on the court but good friends off the court.


Autographed jerseys of top players, including the yellow one from Lee Chong Wei.


A spare court, which was unused on the final day.


Most of the jerseys of the top players in-conjunction of the anniversary tournament were sold out, even before the matches started at noon.

We returned to our seats to continue seeing the rest of the remaining matches. However, some of the spectators had left the venue after the main match of the day - the men's singles match. Therefore, we managed to get better seats, which were much closer to the main court.

The mixed doubles match between the Danes and Chinese Taipei pairs were nothing short of an interesting exhibition of a badminton match, which saw Joachim Fischer Nielsen's adrenaline kicked in; he was unsatisfied with a line-call, threw his racket on the court that earned him a yellow card from the umpire. The match ended with a victory for the Chinese Taipei pair, a first for the country in this tournament's history.

The fifth and final match of the day was the men's doubles, between the world-number-one pair of Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng of China and the Indonesian pair of Mohamamad Ahsan and Bona Septano. It was another exciting match, especially the Indonesian pair of Ahsan and Septano, that were definitely the crowd's favorite. The spectators were won over by Septano's amazing defense, picking up every last smash, and Ahsan's extra high jump-smashes that would capture lobs at the half-court mark. However, the Chinese's years of experience gave them the advantage at the most crucial stage and they took the championship 21-13, 23-21 for the Chinese's victory.


The Chinese pair clearly had the physical advantage compared to the Indonesian pair.


A jumping smash from Septano in the first game.

It was already almost seven in the evening after all the five matches in the final day ended. Overall, it was a great experience to witness the world class players displaying their amazing skills on the court. The extra bonus was to be able to see Chong Wei live in action for the first time. Although he might had failed to defend his title, I hope he knows that every Malaysians are proud of him and will never stop supporting him. God's willing, we hope he will be able to deliver Malaysia's first ever gold medal in London Olympics next year.

And by the way, there was an auction for the top player's autographed jerseys. Guess how much was the winning bid for Chong Wei's T-shirt?


Mr Nakamura Masato from Kagawa prefecture in Shikoku, won the bid.

It was 63,000 yen, which is approximately RM 2,600!

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