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