India Open: Dry Spells Broken

Their delight was almost childlike.

When Mayu Matsumoto and Wakana Nagahara wrapped up their women’s doubles final at the YONEX SUNRISE India Open 2024 in straight games, they burst out with giggly excitement, the smiles never leaving them long after they had walked off court.

And why wouldn’t they feel this exhilarated? It was their first title in nearly three years.

Matsumoto (right) and Nagahara couldn’t wipe the smile off their faces.

There were two other wins on the day which broke longish dry spells.

Shi Yu Qi’s last title was over a year ago – at the Australian Open in November 2022. Since then he has been in five finals – including last week’s Malaysia Open – but ended up short each time.

As for Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai, their exploits of 2021 and 2022 had receded into the distance; 2023 had been an inconsistent year, with only rare breaches of the quarterfinals. Their last title had been the Malaysia Masters in May 2023, with their last Super 750 going back even further – the Japan Open in September 2022.

When the win finally came, 21-16 21-16 over Jiang Zhen Bang/Wei Ya Xin, Taerattachanachai celebrated with her trademark somersault on winning the final point.

For all these players, their India Open victories on Sunday was relief and excitement, a promising start to an Olympic year and a reaffirmation of winning ability.

For two-time world champions Matsumoto and Nagahara, the title was their first since the COVID-affected All England of March 2021. The Japanese, who were 2-2 in career meetings with Zhang Shu Xian/Zheng Yu, were all over their opponents, closing it out 21-12 21-13 in 51 minutes.

“Even the All England that we won in 2021 didn’t have all the top pairs due to COVID,” recalled Matsumoto. “This time since most of the top pairs were here, this was extremely satisfying.”

In the past events we did well, but we were not able to win finals,” said Nagahara. “We could go to the semifinals or finals but we couldn’t win. This time we could win so this is a big achievement.

“We had started losing a bit of confidence as we were unable to win titles. Our coaches wanted us to be more confident, and we tried to play with confidence this time, and it worked.”

Shi acknowledged that the title had come as a break after a difficult period, during which he had lost five finals. He was tested by Lee Cheuk Yiu, who fought all the way before the Chinese emerged winner at 23-21 21-17.

“It has been challenging,” said the world No.2. “Last year was a tough year, and now this is my second tournament in two weeks after the Malaysia Open. To win the gold means a lot.”

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