Longest badminton match: When Yonao, Fukuman won an epic to create history

Always wondered which one is the longest badminton match in history? Here’s the answer you are looking for.

By Utathya Nag
Picture by 2015 Getty Images

Regarded as the fastest racquet sport in the world, badminton matches generally tend to be short and intense.

On an average, a professional best-of-three games badminton match, in modern times, lasts for around 40-50 minutes – typically much shorter than its distant cousin tennis.

But there are times when a contest becomes an exception.

Flipping through badminton history, the 2016 Badminton Asian Championships women’s doubles semi-finals between Japan’s Kurumi Yonao and Naoko Fukuman and Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari stands out.

The match, consisting of three games, lasted a whopping 161 minutes or two hours and 41 minutes, making it the longest badminton match of all time.

Let’s take a look back at the epic marathon badminton match played in Wuhan, China, on April 30, 2016.

The pretext

Besides being a semi-final of a prestigious continental event like the Asian championships, the match held huge significance, especially for Kurumi Yonao and Naoko Fukuman.

With Rio 2016 fast approaching, Yanao and Fukuman were trying to chase down the South Korean duo of Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee for a shot at qualifying for the Olympic Games.

Heading into the Asian championships in Wuhan, the Koreans led the Japanese duo by 3431 points in the Race to Rio Rankings. Incidentally, Chang Ye Na and Lee So Hee were also playing in the other semi-final against another Japanese team - Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi.

Heading into the semi-final clashes, the equation was simple. Yanao and Fukuman needed Chang and Lee in the other semis and had to go on to win the tournament themselves to make it to Rio.

Yanao and Fukuman’s Japanese compatriots Matsutomo and Takahashi did them a huge favour by beating the South Koreans. The rest was now in their own hands.

The task, however, wouldn’t be easy.

The Indonesian duo who stood on their way won the bronze medal at the BWF World Championships in 2015 and a gold medal at the Asian Games in 2014.

Indonesia’s Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari were one of the top women’s doubles pairs at the time.

Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari were also the third seeds at the event while Yanao and Fukuman were unseeded.

Badminton’s longest match

The match started as expected, with Greysia Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari comfortably winning the first game 21-13 to take a 1-0 lead.

Yanao and Fukuman’s will to turn the tables, however, was pretty evident in the second game. The Japanese duo fought tooth and nail for every single point, dragging the Indonesians into long drawn out rallies.

In a closely-contested game, the Japanese team persevered to win it 21-19 to restore parity and force the third game.

The stage was set for an epic decider and it didn’t disappoint.

The two teams went back and forth throughout the game, which lasted for over an hour – typically more than an average badminton match. The Japanese duo, however, won what eventually turned out to be a war of attrition and clinched the deciding game 24-22.

“The Japanese team was cheering for us and we felt we were all fighting for it together,” a teary-eyed and exhausted Fukuman said after the match was over.

Lasting a jaw-dropping 2 hours and 41 minutes, the Badminton World Federation (BWF) announced it as the longest badminton match in history – a record which still stands.

Though the BWF has no publicly published list of the longest-lasting matches, it was the only second time in recent memory a match had crossed the two-hour threshold.

The only other match to do so was the 1997 IBF World Championships men’s singles final between Denmark’s Peter Rasmussen and China’s Sun Jun. The Dane triumphed over the Chinese shuttler by a 16-17, 18-13, 15-10 margin after a battle lasting for 124 minutes or two hours and four minutes.

It was considered as the longest match before Yanao/Fukuman and Polii/Maheshwari broke the record by 37 minutes. Rasmussen vs Jun, however, is still regarded as the longest singles match in badminton history.

Incidentally, Yanao and Fukuman’s quarter-final victory at the 2016 Asian championships over China’s Luo Ying and Luo Yu came very close with a total clocked time of 117 minutes or one hour and 57 minutes.

Unfortunately, the Japanese duo failed to win the final against their Japanese peers Matsutomo and Takahashi – the top seeds at the tournament and eventual gold medallists at Rio 2016 – and fell short of Olympic qualification.

However, Yanao and Fukuman’s match against Polii and Nitya Krishinda Maheswari has carved its own page in badminton history.


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