Unhurried Liang stuns Thai

Liang Xiaoyu, seen here in the SEA Games at home in June. After upsetting the top seed and home favourite Ratchanok Intanon, she is up against second-seeded Korean Sung Ji Hyun in today's Thailand Open women's singles final.
Liang Xiaoyu, seen here in the SEA Games at home in June. After upsetting the top seed and home favourite Ratchanok Intanon, she is up against second-seeded Korean Sung Ji Hyun in today's Thailand Open women's singles final.PHOTO: SINGSOC/ ACTION IMAGES

Being young, there was the urge to rush into her strokes and shots.

However, facing Thai rival Ratchanok Intanon on her home turf, Singapore shuttler Liang Xiaoyu had to suppress that temptation and patiently chip away at the former world champion.

That patience paid off for the 19-year-old, who claimed one of the biggest scalps of her badminton career so far when she won 22-20, 13-21, 21-17 in the women's singles semi-finals at the Thailand Open yesterday.

Liang, who is seeking her maiden title on the BWF circuit, said: "I told myself to hang in there, to be patient and take it one point at a time, until the game was over."

Although unseeded and ranked 120th in the world, the Singaporean was unfazed when she squared off against the tournament's top seed and world No. 8, who had the overwhelming support from the partisan crowd.

Liang edged the first game but 20-year-old Ratchanok, the 2013 world champion, stormed back to take the second. The setback jolted the teenager but she managed to regain her composure to win the decider and seal victory.

In the heat of the battle, Liang was not distracted by visions of winning or fear of failure.

"I was thinking about how to bring out the best in every point, to fight for each point," she said.

Singapore national singles coach Ding Chao believes that Ratchanok faltered under the pressure of the home support.

He said: "The pressure on the opponent was very great, which resulted in her being cautious in her play. Xiaoyu, on the other hand, did not have to deal with that much pressure and that was one of the key reasons behind her win."

Liang will be up against second seed Sung Ji Hyun of South Korea in today's final.

Despite her big triumph, Liang is keeping her feet planted on the ground, saying: "I cannot be too carried away by this win and I have to be prepared for tomorrow's final because the competition is not over yet."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 04, 2015, with the headline 'Unhurried Liang stuns Thai'. Print Edition | Subscribe