China Masters: Naraoka Breaks Title Jinx

The title has taken a while coming, but when it did come, there were no jittery moments, for the distance was too wide. With his 21-13 21-13 result over Kenta Nishimoto, Kodai Naraoka had his first HSBC BWF World Tour title from his fifth final.

Naraoka’s was the second title for Japan after Nami Matsuyama/Chiharu Shida had won the women’s doubles. Hosts China claimed the other three, but the last match was a close call with Liang Wei Keng/Wang Chang nearly falling to pieces from a dominant position in the most exciting match of the day.

There was plenty at stake for Nishimoto in the men’s singles final, for a victory would see him qualify to the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2023. But it was Naraoka who set the terms, dragging his opponent into interminable rallies and true to style, returning from even the most impossible of positions.

Kodai Naraoka with his father on the podium

Nishimoto did his best to inject pace and try to cut the rallies short, but with Naraoka’s astonishing skills in defence, his frustration only grew. The world No.5 prevailed comfortably at the end of 52 minutes, 21-13 21-13.

“It feels great to win my first World Tour title. I’m quite relieved. I could play without pressure and I was more relaxed although my teammate is very strong. I’ve been working very hard to find success. This is the first time I’m getting a trophy that’s so heavy!”

The last match of the day was perhaps the most dramatic of the tournament. The contest between Liang Wei Keng/Wang Chang and Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty had everything that men’s doubles could offer.

Liang Wei Keng and Wang Chang

The Indians fell behind early in the decider and found themselves seven match points down.

But Rankireddy and Shetty kept inching close, rattling the Chinese. The final rally however went Liang/Wang’s way, giving them their fourth title of the season: 21-19 18-21 21-19.

“After becoming world No.1, we didn’t play in Japan; we were training and doing some analysis,” said Wang Chang. “So this tournament we could produce our best performance.

“Our opponents were very persistent and made very few errors. The momentum was with them. We lost a few consecutive points and panicked. We really wanted to win the last point, so that’s why we were disoriented. We’ve been in this situation before, where we lost a big lead. Although we were prepared, we were overthinking. Fortunately the ending was good.”

Other Highlights

Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida

The all-Japanese women’s doubles final saw Nami Matsuyama/Chiharu Shida outplay Yuki Fukushima/Sayaka Hirota 21-18 21-11.

In the first match of the day, Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong beat world champions Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung for the fourth consecutive time. It was a rout, with the 21-10 21-11 result taking just 31 minutes.

In the all-Chinese women’s singles final, Han Yue retired after the second game with an injury, giving Chen Yu Fei her fourth title of the season.


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