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Japan's newest superstars continuing to make their mark

When thinking about Japanese men’s doubles pairs, it is often Hiroyuki Endo and Kenichi Hayakawa who come to mind.

But with Takuto Inoue and Yuki Kaneko making waves and then some in 2017, is now the time for the new kids on the block to take the world by storm?

Taking silver in 2014’s Russian Open, when Kaneko was just 20 and his partner only 19, showed there and then that these two were destined for big things.

And the expectation on their shoulders only grew following their achievements in 2016.

Entering the Thailand Open, many had forecast the Japanese starlets to slip out at the first round when drawn against Malaysian top seeds Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong.

But in three gripping sets they took the spoils and one of the biggest wins of their career, going all the way through to the final despite being unseeded for the Grand Prix Gold event.

And with the taste of a near-miss very much still fresh on their tongue, Inoue and Kaneko have gone from strength to strength from that moment on, with much more still expected in their early careers.

Having missed out in another BWF Grand Prix Gold event – this time the China Masters, in April – the two were quickly back in their stride for the American equivalent, once again reaching the final where Lu Ching-yao and Yang Po-han stood in their way.

Losing the first set, it looked like a fourth runners-up spot could be coming their way.

That didn’t on count the resilience and resolve of the Japanese duo against their Chinese Taipei opponents however, as they came back to win 15-21 21-13 21-13 and strike gold on the courts of California.

But in what had already been a breakthrough 2017, that was far from the end for this pair, who had started the year as Austrian International champions.

Their biggest accolade was to come on the familiarity of home courts, making the step up to the BWF Superseries with aplomb in their own DAIHATSU YONEX Japan Open.

Once again not seeded for the competition, Inoue and Kaneko made light work of the field, marauding their way through to the final with just two games dropped.

And while victory was not to be forthcoming, losing to perennial high-flyers Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, this is surely not the last time we’ll see these two in a BWF Superseries final.

But after a 2017 that will live long in the memory, their challenge for 2018 will be maintaining that flying form.

Having soared to a personal best world No.15 in September, their first test could come in next March’s YONEX All England – the landmark event for all the greats in modern badminton.

And with Japan yet to lift the men’s doubles crown in 107 editions of the competition, maybe the next few years could see history made and badminton in the country revolutionised.