Stardom and overcoming nerves were challenges for world champion Ratchanok Intanon

Thai badminton star Ratchanok Intanon (left) holding court at the OUE Singapore Open media conference yesterday, with Thai-born Singapore shuttler Chayut Triyachart acting as her translator. Ratchanok admitted she is coming to terms with the pressure
Thai badminton star Ratchanok Intanon (left) holding court at the OUE Singapore Open media conference yesterday, with Thai-born Singapore shuttler Chayut Triyachart acting as her translator. Ratchanok admitted she is coming to terms with the pressure of being world champion.ST PHOTO: MUGILAN RAJASEGERAN

Overcoming nerves a challenge for world champion Ratchanok Intanon

WHEN Ratchanok Intanon last competed in Singapore in 2012, the Thai shuttler was a virtual unknown - still to win her first major title on the Badminton World Federation (BWF) circuit.

How life has changed dramatically for the teenager since.

The 19-year-old became a finalist at the prestigious All England Championships last year, captured her maiden Super Series title at the India Open, then went on to become the youngest-ever world champion - all while still sporting braces and a ponytail.

But life under the microscope has not been easy for Ratchanok, who admitted she is struggling to deal with the limelight.

"It has affected me," she said in Thai at the OUE Singapore Open's pre-event media conference yesterday.

"When I won the world championships, I didn't have much pressure, but now everyone is watching me and wants to beat me."

Ratchanok, who enjoys celebrity status in Thailand and said she is often stopped on the streets for photographs, has yet to win a title on the BWF circuit since that momentous world championships victory last August.

"It affects me to know that I've been able to win the world championships, but struggle to win a Super Series," said the Thai, whose India Open title is her lone Super Series win. "I get more nervous and cannot play my best game."

For someone who has already amassed a record-breaking three world junior titles, an Asian Games team silver, a Sudirman Cup and Uber Cup bronze, as well as three SEA Games medals, it is surprising that Ratchanok still regards herself as "inexperienced".

She insisted that she still has much to learn and improve on, such as when facing defending Singapore Open champion Wang Yihan, against whom she has a 0-8 head-to-head record.

"Experience plays a big part, and Wang makes better decisions during the crucial points," she said. "I'm still learning how to handle the pressure. I want to perform in competitions (at a level that) I'm capable of during training."

The third-seeded Thai's path to winning a maiden title in Singapore will be a tricky one, as she has been drawn in the same half as Wang, as well as India's Saina Nehwal and P.V. Sindhu.

In the Singapore camp, however, hopes are high that the national shuttlers will post a better performance this year, after a dismal showing in last year's Open where none made it to the quarter-finals stage.

Men's doubles pair Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart, in particular, are riding high on confidence after their recent win at the Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold.

Said Chrisnanta: "I won't take (our recent win) as pressure. It's more motivation instead. We've got more confidence and I hope we can do well. We'll focus on one match at a time."

Added Singapore Badminton Association chief executive Ronnie Lim: "The mood and atmosphere in the team is different, and I believe we will out-perform last year."

maychen@sph.com.sg


Ticketing details

  • What: OUE Singapore Open
  • When: Today to Sunday
  • Where: Singapore Indoor Stadium
  • Prize money: US$300,000 (S$377,643)
  • Tickets are on sale through SportsHubTix.