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The women’s doubles pairs’ very different routes to the final

The two women’s doubles partnerships’ paths to the YONEX All England Open Badminton Championships finals could not be more different.

Japan’s Chiharu Shida and Nami Matsuyama have been friends since they were teenagers and joined together to win the title in 2022. 

That same year Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee of Korea formed a pairing that has seen them rise to their current ranking of world No.2. 

“We have been friends since our high school days,” Shida said. “Back then we used to want to play together and now ten years on we are playing together in the All England final. 

“It is incredible, I am here because of Nami’s support so I am so grateful for her.”   

Shida was born just over a year before Matsuyama, while for Baek and Lee there is almost six years in age difference. 

Matsuyama said: “We have been friends since junior high school days, I never thought we would be doing this. 

“If I could, I would like to tell myself back in the day that this is what we would be doing.  

“I would like to thank my partner because she is senior to me, and she has been leading me through this.”   

Matsuyama and Shida entered the 2022 tournament as the seventh seeds but were favoruites in the final as they came up against the unseeded pairing of Zhang Shuxian and Zheng Yu of China. 

The Japanese duo triumphed in straight games in the final to win the second of three Super 1000 titles and have never lost in a top-tier showpiece. 

This year they go in as underdogs as they take on the second seeds who sit three places above them in the rankings but have won eight out of the 10 meetings between the pairs. 

Baek and Lee have dropped one set on the way to the title, while Matsuyama and Shida have played only seven in their eight matches after a retirement in the quarter-finals. 

For that reason, Baek is not focussing on their previous meetings, with none having come at the All England. 

She said: “We might have more wins, if you look at the history between us, but we won’t be too focussed on the past.  

“The Japanese players have very fast strokes, they have very few mistakes as well.  

“So we’re just going to focus on what we have prepared and on how we play.”  

Baek and Lee have made an immediate return to the All England final having lost to their compatriots Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong in the 2023 final. 

They got revenge in this year’s semi-final beating their teammates 21-17 18-21 21-16. 

For Baek, the pair’s success comes from unwavering belief in her opponent. 

“Lee So Hee has a lot of experience and if I don’t trust her in full, I wouldn’t be able to solve the situations where I’m having a bit of difficulties,” she added. 

“So I have to have 100% trust in her and she is very trustworthy leader.”   

While Baek appears full of respect, Lee insists that off the court things can be quite different. 

“She may be young but she is a very reliable partner on the court,” she said. 

“I sometimes find her a little irritating, I almost want to give her a little hit on her forehead.”   

It is only a matter of time before we find out who will triumph in the final. 


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