THE BEST OF ASIA: Akane Yamaguchi (Japan)
Akane Yamaguchi is a Japanese badminton player, currently ranked #5 in BWF’s world ranking for women’s singles. At just 24 years old, Yamaguchi already has a staggering 324 career wins, including being a part of the women’s team that won the 2018 Uber Cup in Bangkok. With so many great achievements under her belt, she is definitely one of Asia’s best players!
Yamaguchi was born in Fukui, Japan and has been playing badminton since she could remember. At the age of 3 she was already holding on to a racket and by 5 already started to play the sport. In 2012 she became a member of the Japanese national team, making her the youngest athlete to join; an incredibly huge achievement and proud moment for her. She made her debut the same year at the Osaka International Challenge and it wasn’t long before she won her first ever singles title the following year in 2013 at the YONEX Open Japan, making her the youngest player and also the 1st Japanese player to win. Her junior career is filled with success as she’s also won the 2013 and 2014 World Junior Championships and the 2014 Asian Junior Championships. Since the beginning of her career, she’s already making badminton history.
In 2014, she continued her path to success. She represented her country Japan at the 2014 Asian Games in South Korea, and helped the team clinch a bronze medal. She also won silver at the China Open. The following year, Yamaguchi continued to represent her country in big tournaments, such as the Sudirman Cup. At the Sudirman Cup she played in the finals, helping her team win the silver medal. In 2016 she was part of the team that won the bronze medal at the Uber Cup, and in the summer represented Japan for the first time in the women’s singles event at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio, another huge achievement for her. She continued collecting more gold medals at the Korea and Denmark Open, beating Sung Ji-hyun and Tai Tzu-ying respectively.
As the years go by, Yamaguchi doesn’t stop fighting for more. In 2017, she won gold the Asia Mixed Team Championships held in Ho Chi Minh City, helping them win its first mixed team championship. In 2017 she collected silver at the Australian, Denmark and French Open but she also reached the top of the podium at the China Open and Dubai World Super Series Finals, where she defeated India’s P. V. Sindhu in a thrilling 15–21, 21–12, 21–1 match to eventually be crowned the winner.
2018 proved to become one of Yamaguchi’s most incredible years individually, but also as part of a winning team. In April, she became the first Japanese player to become the #1 ranked singles player in the world. The following month, she led the Japanese team in the Uber Cup and helped them win their first Uber Cup since 1981 after defeating Thailand 3-0. She also won gold at the German Open and French open after beating Chen Yufei and Tai Tzu-ying. Later that year she also was huge part of the Japanese women’s team that won gold at the 2018 Asian Games in Jakarta, Indonesia.
In 2019, she continued on by winning the Asian Championships, Indonesia Open and Japan Open. In 2020, she was victorious against Korean player An Se-young after defeating her 21-16, 22-20 at the Thailand Masters. Akane Yamaguchi is one of the most successful Japanese players and she’s only just 24 years old. We can’t wait to see more of her and follow her badminton career.