Akane Yamaguchi became the first Japanese to win back-to-back women's singles badminton world championships on Sunday, beating China's Tokyo Olympic gold medalist Chen Yufei 21-12, 10-21, 21-14 at Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.
Yamaguchi, the world No. 1, scored seven straight points to take an 8-1 lead in the decisive third game and held off the challenges from her fourth-ranked rival to mark Japan's first time hosting the worlds with a championship.
"I'm happy to get the best result possible at the world championships in Japan," said Yamaguchi. "It was a positive that I could enjoy playing despite the nerves and pressure."
At last summer's spectatorless Tokyo Olympics, Yamaguchi crashed out in the quarterfinals just as she had four years earlier in Rio de Janeiro, and her Tokyo failure has haunted her.
She said she "couldn't be her usual self" last year in Tokyo, with "the memory still coming back" from time to time.
During Sunday's final, the 25-year-old cruised in the first game after taking a 6-5 lead. Chen took the second in similar fashion after seizing a 5-4 lead to force a third game, where Yamaguchi's maturity was on display with her tenacity and boldness.
"I could pick myself up in the final game...The level of concentration was as high as ever," an emotional Yamaguchi said, savoring the cheers from the home crowd that were not there last summer.
The third-ranked mixed doubles pair of Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino fell at the last hurdle, however. Japan's Tokyo Olympics bronze medalists lost 21-13, 21-16 to the second-ranked Olympic silver medalists, Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong of China.
After allowing the Chinese pair to lead for most of the first game, Watanabe and Higashino led 14-13 in the second before dropping the next five points.
With their second-straight runner-up finish, Japan has yet to win a mixed doubles world championship.
Top-ranked Viktor Axelsen of Denmark won the men's singles title, the Tokyo Olympic gold medalist defeating Thailand's 17th-ranked Kunlavut Vitidsarn 21-5, 21-16.
Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik made history in men's doubles. The sixth-ranked pair won Malaysia's first gold medal at the worlds, beating Indonesia's third-ranked Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan 21-19, 21-14.
Top-raked Chen Qingchen and Jia Yifan of China won the women's doubles final 22-20, 21-14 over South Korea's fourth-ranked Kim So Yeong and Kong Hee Yong.