OUE Singapore Open 2016

Badminton: Ratchanok Intanon eyes Singapore Open title and world No.1 ranking

A respectful Ratchanok Intanon thanking the service judge after exchanging a shuttlecock. A triumph today will make her the first woman to win three titles in as many weeks.
A respectful Ratchanok Intanon thanking the service judge after exchanging a shuttlecock. A triumph today will make her the first woman to win three titles in as many weeks. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Lin Dan paid the price for a slow start. By the time he got into gear, it was too late to salvage his game
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Lin Dan paid the price for a slow start. By the time he got into gear, it was too late to salvage his game .ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM
Japan’s world No. 1 women’s doubles pair Misaki Matsutomo (left) and Ayaka Takahashi defeated 2012 Olympic champions Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei 21-17, 20-22, 21-16. They will play Indonesia’s Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii to try an
Japan’s world No. 1 women’s doubles pair Misaki Matsutomo (left) and Ayaka Takahashi defeated 2012 Olympic champions Tian Qing and Zhao Yunlei 21-17, 20-22, 21-16. They will play Indonesia’s Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii to try and make up for the disappointment of finishing runners-up last year. ST PHOTO: KEVIN LIM

Thai star knows she can replace Marin as No.1 if she beats Sun but sluggish Lin falls to Sony

Arriving in town as the world No. 2 and with Olympic qualification in the bag, Ratchanok Intanon did not need to play the OUE Singapore Open, especially after a gruelling fortnight during which she went the distance in two tournaments.

But the Thai was in pursuit of history.

Not just to become the first women's badminton player to win three titles in as many weeks, but also to chase a number that has so far eluded the 2013 world champion's career - No. 1.

She will get her shot to become the world's top-ranked player today - displacing Spain's Carolina Marin - when she plays defending champion Sun Yu in the final.

Third seed Ratchanok beat Japan's Akane Yamaguchi 21-12, 22-20 in yesterday's semi-finals, while the unseeded Sun defeated team-mate He Bingjiao 21-10, 21-16.

  • TODAY'S FINALS (FROM 1PM)

  • Women's singles: Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) v Sun Yu (Chn)

    Mixed doubles: Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na (Kor) v Xu Chen/Ma Jin (Chn)

    Women's doubles: Misaki Matsutomo/ Ayaka Takahashi (Jpn) v Nitya Krishinda Maheswari/ Greysia Polii (Ina)

    Men's singles: Son Wan Ho (Kor) v Sony Dwi Kuncoro (Ina)

    Men's doubles: Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan (Chn) v Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda (Jpn)

"I know I can become world No. 1 if I win," said the 21-year-old. "It's on my mind. I'll try to relax. Win or lose, it's okay. I try to challenge myself that I can do it."

The darling of Thai badminton is without doubt the player of the moment in the women's game, having picked up the India Superseries and Malaysia Superseries Premier titles en route to Singapore.

Despite concerns from fans that she is putting her body through the wringer in the lead-up to August's Olympic Games, Ratchanok says fatigue is not a worry.

She said: "I read comments from Thai fans who are worried that my fitness will go down, but I try to take care of myself after games. I feel like it's good.

"I've beaten Sun Yu before," added Ratchanok, who is 4-1 against her world No. 14 opponent. "It's still going to be a tough match. I'm looking forward to the final."

Ratchanok will be the biggest name to feature on the final day of the tournament, after China's Lin Dan was sent packing by a familiar foe in his much-awaited semi-final.

The two-time Olympic champion was beaten 21-10, 17-21, 22-20 by Indonesia's Sony Dwi Kuncoro, a veteran despite having come through the tournament as a qualifier.

The loss means the 32-year-old Lin is still without a win at a Superseries event in South-east Asia over his illustrious career.

Not showing the chatty self he has been so far this week, the five-time world champion simply got out of first gear too late.

"I didn't do as well as I could have," he said.

"I played better later on, but I lost the first game too quickly and took too long to get into my momentum."

For Sony, who fell to his knees shortly after converting his second match point, it was clear that the victory over someone widely regarded as the greatest of all time had immense significance.

Injuries ranging from the back, waist and wrist over his career caused him to miss the 2012 Olympics and very likely the Rio Games this year.

But yesterday, the 31-year-old was simply glad he still possesses the form that led to a 2004 Olympic bronze and two podium finishes at the world championships.

Said Sony, who played with a heavily wrapped and taped back: "After the last point, I thought to myself, I can still win. It's been a while. This is definitely a comeback for me. It's really something."

Sony will meet South Korean Son Wan Ho today, after the latter won his semi-final against Hong Kong's Angus Ng 22-20, 21-16.

Team-mate Simon Santoso created a fairy tale of his own when he lifted the Singapore Open title in 2014 as a qualifier.

Said Sony: "If Simon can do it, why can't I?"

OUE SINGAPORE OPEN

Finals: StarHub Ch203, 1pm

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 17, 2016, with the headline 'Ratchanok eyes top spot'. Print Edition | Subscribe