Day 1 of the BWF World Tour Finals belonged to the Japanese as far as the women's singles division is concerned. Both Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi won their respective matches, and that too against two of the toughest opponents.
As per the rules of the tournament, if two players of the same country are in the same group, they must play each other before anyone else. So, we had two matches involving shuttlers of the same nationality. Chen Yu Fei defeated her compatriot He Bing Jiao while Ratchanok Intanon had little difficulty in winning over Busanan Ongbamrungphan of her own country.
The Ratchanok-Busanan match was the most one-sided. The first game saw Ratchanok making mincemeat of her opponent. The former World Champion is known for her great skills and she displayed her brilliant shots in the match. However, there were many attempted glory shots that didn't come off. This suggests that she is not at her best. Still, she was good enough to win 21-4, 21-16.
The Chen Yu Fei vs He Bing Jiao match was expected to be a good one. Even though Chen has been more successful at the international level in recent times and is coming into the event with some big victories under her belt, Bing Jiao held a 1-4 advantage in head-to-head coming into the match.
However, the first game was quite one-sided as the fluency of Chen's play proved too much for her opponent to deal with. The second game saw the southpaw fight back and remain at level terms with her compatriot most of the time. Some good smashes from Bing Jiao helped her cause. But eventually the All England Champion was able to assert herself and take the match 21-9, 21-18.
Nozomi Okuhara and Tai Tzu Ying was the most exciting prospect of the day and the match lived up to the expectations. This match proved once again that the biggest opponent for Tai is she herself.
In the first game, she got off to a poor start, which is not uncommon, but then played with great efficiency and accuracy to take a lead in the match. Being a tenacious competitor, Nozomi fought back in the second game. Also, the tendency of the Taiwanese player to play loosely at times and commit errors returned.
At 18-all in the second game, she went for two ambitious shots and pushed the shuttle wide, conceding match points and losing the game. The decider saw these two top-quality competitors battling hard to get the edge. But by this time, Okuhara was in rhythm and not only back to her great retrieving ways but also playing some delectable shots of her own.
Tai, whose game is built around winners, found it hard to break the defence of the Japanese girl and despite not falling too far behind, lost a close contest. The final scoreline was 15-21, 21-18, 21-19.
The last match of the day on Court 2 saw the defending champion PV Sindhu taking on Akane Yamaguchi. Sindhu dominated the first game as her height and reach seemed to get the better of the petite Japanese girl.
But even in the first game, there were signs that there is an opportunity for Yamaguchi. Sindhu seemed troubled by body smashes and wasn't retrieving very well. These issues became a little more prominent in the second game as Akane upped her game and started showing that stamina and perseverance that have defined her.
A close game went in favour of Yamaguchi and the match went into a decider. Then occurred an unexpected development. Sindhu seemed to completely lose her way and the doughty Japanese girl coasted to a victory.
At her best, Sindhu uses her height to retrieve most shots. But in today's match, apart from the body smashes, her response to other smashes was also weak. She also appeared weak in her net play and looked like out of energy towards the end. Yamaguchi won the match 18-21, 21-18, 21-8.