Denmark Open: ‘I’m Glad She Waited for Me’

Getting off to a good start at Denmark Open 2022 presented by VICTOR were Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota, who reunited in Odense after three months as both players were affected by injuries.

The world No.7 pair showed no signs of concern as they ousted Linda Efler/Isabel Lohau 21-14 20-22 21-9 in the opening round.

With Fukushima having to skip August’s TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2022 in Tokyo, the 29-year-old couldn’t wait for her partner to be by her side again. Nursing a calf injury, she also missed another tournament on home soil – the Japan Open.

“It’s getting better little by little. I’m expecting my previous performances to come back gradually and I’ll keep improving,” promised Fukushima. “I had been waiting for the recovery of Hirota, then I got injured. It feels good to have my partner back.”

Their last competitive match was at Malaysia Masters 2022, where they exited in the second round to Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan.

Hirota said: “I’m glad and thankful she waited for me to recover. It made me so happy when we walked onto court together.”

Hirota (left) wore a leg brace at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

The two-time winners (2018, 2020) have been plagued by injuries since the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. Following a tear to her right anterior cruciate ligament, Hirota opted to have surgery after the Olympics. She is now almost fully recovered.

“The injury is improving,” assured Hirota, after coming through a barrage of attacks from their German opponents.

“They were directing their smashes at me because of my injury. It put us under a lot of pressure to respond with the right kind of placement shots. I’m hoping for more matches, more experience, and I want to show I can expand my abilities of what I can do in matches.”

Nozomi Okuhara, another home shuttler forced to miss the Japan tournaments due to a right knee injury, had a tough fight against Belgium’s Lianne Tan before coming through 21-17 21-10.

“I’ve recovered. I didn’t feel at my peak fitness but I kept telling myself to do my best and I did that. It’s nice to be back here,” said the 2020 champion. “My goal is to not get injured anymore. I’m looking forward to being back out there.”

Okuhara returns after suffering a knee injury earlier this year.

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