Liang can be proud despite loss in Thai final

Liang Xiaoyu in action at last year's Commonwealth Games in Scotland. The 19-year-old has set her sights on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Liang Xiaoyu in action at last year's Commonwealth Games in Scotland. The 19-year-old has set her sights on the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. ST FILE PHOTO

It was a harsh 37-minute lesson in elite badminton, but Singapore shuttler Liang Xiaoyu can still hold her head high after her fairy-tale run earned her a silver at the Thailand Open.

The 19-year-old fell 11-21, 14-21 to South Korean Sung Ji Hyun in the women's singles final at the Thunder Dome in Nonthaburi yesterday.

Looking nervous and fatigued in her first major final, the former Singapore Sports School student was overpowered at the service line and outclassed near the net.

In the semi-finals a day earlier, she upset top seed and former world champion Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand 22-20, 13-21, 21-17.

The teenager said: "Playing Sung was more difficult - offensively she's very strong and her smashes are faster.

"I couldn't play my best because I was very nervous. I made a lot of mistakes, which I hope to correct in future competitions.

World No. 7 Sung, who also won the Korea Open two weeks ago, is ranked 113 spots above Liang.

Singapore coach Ding Chao said his charge had "some issues with her mentality" and has "a lot of room for improvement".

He added: "She made more unforced errors because she tried to go for too much. Before the match, we spoke about defence, staying in the rallies. But because she was nervous, our game plan didn't unfold to expectations."

Liang had shown poise and power earlier in the Grand Prix Gold event - which is one level below the top-tier Masters series - toppling higher-ranked opponents such as Australia's Wendy Chen (72) and Thailand's Pornpawee Chochuwong (51). If she maintains her form, a top-80 world ranking could be secured by year-end.

Qualifying for the Rio Olympics next year may be too much to ask - compatriot Chen Jiayuan is ranked higher (42) - but Tokyo 2020 remains within her sights.

Liang reached the quarter-finals at this year's SEA Games on home soil, and was a part of the Singapore team that claimed an unexpected mixed team bronze at the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow last year.

Ding said: "I believe if she continues to train hard, she can reach a different level and make a real impact for Singapore badminton."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 05, 2015, with the headline 'Liang can be proud despite loss in Thai final'. Print Edition | Subscribe