JAKARTA: Japan’s former badminton world number one Akane Yamaguchi has vowed to put her poor team performances behind her as she bids for individual gold at the Asian Games after she won her opening match on Friday without breaking a sweat.
The 21-year-old Yamaguchi, who in April became the first ever Japanese shuttler to achieve the global top ranking, humbled Afghanistan’s Lidaa Saraj 21-0, 21-3 in just 17 minutes in Jakarta.
It was her first win in this edition of the regional Olympics after losing three straight games in the team event. Despite her losses, Japan won the team gold after overcoming Asian powerhouse China, and Yamaguchi praised her teammates’ attitude.
“I don’t know if I changed my mind (from the team event) or not but my teammates said, ‘we won, so never mind’. That helped me switch gears,” Yamaguchi told reporters after her round of 32 win.
“Although there was a difference in ability (between my opponent and me), I did what I had to do. That is play good badminton,” she said with a smile.
Yamaguchi had lost to India’s P. V. Sindhu, Indonesian favourite Gregoria Mariska Tunjung, and then Chen Yufei of China in the team event.
If she defeats Nepal’s Nangsal Tamang on Saturday, Yamaguchi is expected to meet world number five Yufei again in the individual quarter-finals, but the Japanese player is only taking it step by step.
“In (an) individual event it does not matter to win or lose, but I want to do my best,” said Yamaguchi.
“If I have to play against Chen again then I have to play hard. She is a very strong player,” she added.