Defending YONEX All England Open champion Akane Yamaguchi will head to Birmingham brimming with confidence after victory at the YONEX German Open.
The Japanese star, top seed in Germany and world No.1, has dominated the tour since her All England victory 12 months ago and dispatched second seed An Se Young 21-11 21-14 to triumph in Mulheim.
Yamaguchi dropped just one game all tournament – in her quarter-final clash against Wang Zhiyi – but followed that up with victories over third seed Chen Yufei and then Young.
South Korea’s Young had beaten fourth seed He Bingjiao in her semi-final encounter, and the world No.2 will be among the main contenders looking to stop Yamaguchi at the Utilita Arena.
The four top seeds – and four of the top five players in the world – all reached the semi-final of the women’s event, though there were more surprising results elsewhere.
Fifth seeds Feng Yan Zhe and Huang Dong Ping prevailed in the mixed doubles event, easing past unseeded South Korean pairing Kim Won Ho and Jeong Na Eun in Sunday’s final.
The Chinese duo prevailed 21-4 21-15 to take home the title, following a week which saw them not drop a single game across their five matches.
Despite disappointment in the final it was still a fantastic week for the Korean pairing, who beat top seeds – and defending YONEX All England champions – Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino in Round 2.
Only two seeded pairings – including the eventual winners – reached the last eight stage in Mulheim, setting up an intriguing draw in Birmingham.
The other seeded pairing to reach the quarter-finals were second seeds Thom Gicquel and Delphine Delrue, who lost in the last eight and will be seeded fourth at the YONEX All England.
There were even more shocks in the men’s singles with Angus Ng Ka Long overcoming Li Shi Feng in an all-unseeded final to claim the crown.
Seven of the eight seeds and all of the top four seeds – including top seed and 2021 YONEX All England champion Lee Zi Jia – had all excited by the conclusion of the second round.
After benefitting from the retirement of third seed Kodai Naraoka in Round 1, Ng Ka Long battled past Hong Kong compatriot Lee Cheuk Yiu from a game down to reach the final.
There he came up against Shi Feng, who had eased past former world No.1 Kento Momota in his semi-final.
It was a contest that ebbed and flowed, though the Hong Kong star battled from a game down to win 20-22 21-18 21-18 and head to Birmingham with a recent title under his belt.
There was also a minor surprise in the women’s doubles draw, with eighth seeds Baek Ha Na and Lee So Hee beating top seeds – and reigning YONEX All England champions – Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida in Sunday’s final.
After beating fourth seeds and South Korean compatriots Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong in the last four, the eighth seeds overcame Matsuyama and Shida 21-19 21-15 to take the title.
Matsuyama and Shida had themselves faced a tricky semi-final, defeating third seeds Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan in the last four after a quarter-final win over compatriots and fifth seeds Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota.
It was a strong week of action for Korean shuttlers and there was no greater display of that than an all-Korean final in the men’s doubles.
Seventh seeds Choi Sol Gyu and Kim Won Ho defeated unseeded compatriots Kang Min Hyuk and Seo Seung Jae 21-19 18-21 21-19 in a thrilling final to win the tournament.
Choi and Kim had beaten fourth seeds Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen in the last eight, while after a first-round bye top seeds Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik fell in round two to add to the early seeded casualties this past week.
All eyes now look to Birmingham, with action beginning on Tuesday.