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A story full of dynamics and aesthetics

When the doors of the Sportforum Berlin opened to the spectators half an hour before 10 a.m., it was already palpable – the anticipation of a final day in a class of its own. After exhausting, nerve-racking and long days, the time had finally come. The 5 finals of the YONEX German Junior were on the programme.

Punctually at 10.00 a.m. the bass of the march-in music for the first match of the day boomed through the hall. Hall speaker and department head of the organising club Marcus Köster celebrated this already traditional introduction of the players. But first the officials were allowed onto the pitch and present themselves to the spectators. For their performance was also of a special nature in the past days. They officiated the games objectively, professionally and with the necessary tact. Today, too, they are a very important part of this tournament. Chair umpires, serve umpires and four line judges are part of the standard equipment of a final match, because in the end millimetres can decide victory or defeat.

Back to the protagonists: The mixed final was an all-Chinese affair: Gao/Huang met Zhu/Liao. Both had sovereignly qualified for the final. From the first rally, it was obvious that it was going to be a hot match. After 11 points, the ball was changed several times, as the feathered playing equipment was literally maltreated by both men, especially with jump smashes. Until the end of the third set, it was not clear who was the favourite. Gao/Huang (CHN) won 18:21 and 22:20 after almost 40 minutes. The deciding set also went the full distance and ended with 21:19 for Gao/Huang (CHN).

In the men’s singles, Malaysia in the person of Eogene Ewe and Japan with the Dutch junior champion from a week ago, Yudai Okimoto, faced each other. Here, too, it went into the decisive third set. Okimoto, who was cheered on loudly by his compatriots again and again, was struggling with a thigh injury throughout the match, which forced him to take medical breaks again and again. Nevertheless, he was able to deliver his performance, swept across the court like a whirlwind and convinced with delayed attacking shots from the back court. In a heart-stopping final, Okimoto secured his second title in a row at the YONEX German Junior 2023.

Those who think of long clear rallies or drop duels in the women’s doubles were proved wrong in the final between Sudo/Yamakita (JPN) and Li/Zhang (CHN). Not only in terms of speed, but also in terms of hardness of the strokes, the ladies were hardly inferior to the men. Especially impressive was the security in defence, which made it incredibly difficult for both pairs to score easy points. In the first set, the Japanese won clearly with 21:11 and everyone thought that this would be the first two-set match of the day. But China’s Li/Zhang came on strong in the second set and won it. It was a neck-and-neck race with long and intense rallies until the Japanese stepped up a gear.

In the women’s singles, Mihane Endo (JPN) and Xu Wen Jing (CHN) faced each other. The Japanese quickly took command and forced the Chinese player into the defensive again and again. They quickly built up a 6-point lead, which they were able to hold until 20:14. But then Mihane Endo repeatedly made small inaccuracies which brought Xu Wen Jing back into the game. So the first set ended with 21:19 for Endo, which was closer than expected. In the second set, Xu really turned up the heat, did not lose a ball and fought her way back into the match. The second set went surprisingly clearly to the Chinese player with 21:7. Thus, the fourth match of the day was the fourth three-set match in the final. This pleased the spectators, who had got their money’s worth in every match so far. And this set also went almost the full distance. In the end, Xu prevailed with 21:15 and secured the YONEX German Junior 2023 trophy.

The last and perhaps most spectacular match of the day was the men’s doubles final. Speed, jumping power, defensive strength and unbelievable service situations were offered to the spectators every second and amazed many visitors of the Sportforum. The Koreans in particular were quick as lightning at the racket and caused the Chinese problems time and again in getting their attacks through. Chen/Lin (CHN) won the first set 23-21, but those who had the final of the day in mind knew that three sets were the order of the day today. And so it finally came to pass. Korea’s Lee/Park varied their attacks and tempo and gained an advantage that won them the second set 21-14. In the deciding set, the balls whistled over the net – there were no signs of fatigue on either side after the energy-sapping rallies. The Koreans celebrated their first match point emotionally.

So that was it – the 13th YONEX German Junior at the Berlin Sportforum. Manfred Kehrberg gave a thoroughly positive summary, was very satisfied with the tournament in the German capital and is already looking forward to the next edition in 2024. Then, however, Manfred Kehrberg will no longer act as tournament manager. After 13 successful years, during which the tournament has firmly established itself in the Berlin calendar of events, he is going into a well-deserved German Junior retirement. Although he will remain with the SG EBT Berlin, he is handing over the sceptre and the position where all the threads come together to the next generation. “Thank you very much, Manfred, for 13 exhausting and energy-sapping, but above all successful and fun years at the YONEX German Junior. The entire organisation team thanks you for your tireless efforts.

Your GJ team

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4 exciting days – 1 final day awaits

While the organising team of SG EBT Berlin (organiser) is rebuilding the hall, cleaning up and preparing for the big final day on Sunday, tournament director Manfred Kehrberg is already thinking about the intense but also wonderful last 4 days of the tournament. 5 disciplines – 312 players* from 28 nations – record number of entries; it reads like a fairytale. “After two difficult years without the biggest and most important European youth tournament, you start to wonder. Is this still the right thing for us? Can we still manage the workload? But with our team, anything is possible. The individual stations, it’s hard to list them all, have done an incredible job. Shuttle service, cafeteria, tournament office, tournament management, ball service, admission and the many volunteers have made this tournament what it is. I am incredibly proud of that,” said Manfred Kehrberg in his first summary. And he continues: “This year, too, all nations felt very comfortable with us. This is the result of the last 14 years, in which we have always managed to adapt and improve our tournament in Berlin.

In sporting terms, today, Saturday, was the most spectacular day of the week so far. In the quarter- and semi-finals, China, Japan and Korea in particular showed what the rest of the world should look up to. With power, speed and endurance, the athletes virtually flew across the court. The men’s singles between Wang Zi Jun (CHN) and Eogene Ewe (MAS) was particularly impressive, as they did not give each other a point in three sets. Eogene Ewe was often one ball better than his opponent in the deciding set and deservedly entered the final with 21:13. Yudai Okimoto from Japan, who showed the limits of the tall Indian Ayush Shetty in the parallel match, will be waiting there tomorrow.

In the women’s doubles, there was an injury in the all-Chinese 1st semi-final, so that the second semi-final was the only one to be played. Here the rallies became longer and longer. Neither Sudo/Yamakita (JPN) nor Kwai/Park (KOR) seemed to want to make a mistake in the 50 minutes of play. Again and again they saved the rallies from almost unbelievable situations. But the Koreans were visibly battered in the end and lost in two sets.

Tomorrow’s final in the women’s singles will be a duel between Xu Wen Jing (CHN), who clearly beat Mei Sudo (JPN), and Mihane Endo (JPN), who needed three sets against Park Seul (KOR) to deservedly win. She still has a score to settle with the Chinese, who gave her compatriot Sudo no chance.

The Chinese are in a class of their own in the mixed. There were already three Chinese pairs in the semi-finals, two of which will fight for the YONEX German Junior crown in the final. Zhu Yi Jun / Liao Li Xi (CHN) and Gao Jia Xuan / Huang Ke Xin (CHN) will do their utmost to offer the spectators spectacular rallies tomorrow.

In the last two matches of the day, the finalists were determined in the men’s doubles, for many the fastest discipline in badminton. Here the motto was: Whoever plays the ball high loses. The spectators could not turn their heads that fast to really see every ball. Especially the doubles match between the number 1 seeded Chinese Xu/Zhu and the Koreans Lee/Park was extremely exciting in the second set. After trailing 15-19, the two small and agile Koreans turned the match around and won 21-19 after losing the first set. They took this momentum into the deciding set and deservedly secured their place in tomorrow’s final.

The finals will start at 10:00 am at the Sportforum Berlin and will be played on one court. We are looking forward to numerous spectators.

Your GJ Team

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China shows dominance

Three days of badminton at world class level – three days in which the field of participants became smaller and smaller. The best players in their disciplines and age groups lived up to their role as favourites and, with a few exceptions, prevailed.

Today, Saturday morning at 10:00, the round of 16 matches in the mixed were played. The only remaining European representative was the Danish mixed with Mike Vestergaard and Sofie Rojkjaer. They delivered exciting rallies, but could not keep up against the strong Chinese Zhu Yi Jun and Liao Li Xi. They were eliminated in two sets.

Now the 150 spectators in the Sportforum Berlin are waiting for the semi-finals. It continues at 3 pm. The Chinese players in particular came on strong in the last round and put their opponents in their place. This means that eight Chinese pairs are still in the running for the crown at the YONEX German Junior 2023. The all-Chinese semi-finals in the mixed and men’s doubles are likely to be particularly exciting. There, the feathered ball will be hit over the net again. Anecdote: The previous record of balls used in one match is 19 (!!). Let’s see if this record can be broken.

Your GJ team

photos: Henriette Leber