BANGKOK (AFP) - Fifth seed and former world No. 1 Carolina Marin breezed into the final of badminton's Toyota Thailand Open on Saturday (Jan 23), beating South Korean teenager An Se-young 21-19, 21-15.
The 27-year-old Spaniard, ranked sixth in the world, is aiming for back-to-back titles in this week's tournament - the second of three consecutive events in Bangkok that culminate in next week's World Tour Finals.
She came out on top last week against top-seeded Tai Tzu-ying in the Yonex Thailand Open and will meet the same opponent once more, after continuing her winning streak by maintaining her signature aggressive play against seventh-seeded An.
The Chinese Taipei world No. 1 came back from a first-set slump to beat home-grown star Ratchanok Intanon in a 12-21, 21-12, 23-21 nail-biter.
The tense third game was marked by extended rallies before she dealt the winning shot against her Thai opponent.
"In the final moments of the match I just enjoyed playing badminton on court again," said Tai.
"I can say (Marin) is very fast and I'll try to keep up."
Marin spoke of the mental battle of motivating herself just days after being victorious.
"Sometimes it's tough for the mindset when you win a tournament just three days ago and you have to start a tournament all over again," the reigning Olympic champion said after the match.
The pair had already duelled in last week's tournament, also in the semi-finals, with the more experienced Marin winning in a quick 21-18, 21-16 match.
An, an 18-year-old who was named "Most Promising Player" in 2019, was downcast after the defeat.
"I tried to respond to her smashes and tried everything," said the teenager.
"Unfortunately, it didn't go quite so well, so I'm a little disappointed."
Marin's signature yelps after each match point reverberated around the spectatorless stadium - a coronavirus precaution taken by Thailand as part of its biosecure "bubble" to accommodate players who flew in from across the world.
Despite the efforts of tournament officials, four positive cases have been detected so far, forcing an Indian player and an Egyptian player to withdraw.
The men's singles saw a huge upset when Denmark's third-seeded Anders Antonsen was knocked out of the tournament by his veteran compatriot, Hans-Kristian Vittinghus.
Antonsen had survived a bruising game the day before against India's Sameer Verma, and the impact showed on Saturday as he appeared slower in responding to Vittinghus' attacks, who won the game 21-19, 21-8.
"I totally lost hope (by the second game)," admitted Antonsen, who has recovered after contracting the coronavirus in December.
The win was unexpected, even for the 42nd-ranked Vittinghus. He had a flight booked back to Denmark on Saturday which he said would now have to be rescheduled.
"I can say that this feels pretty awesome... I'm really looking forward to the final tomorrow," said Vittinghus, who will face fourth-seeded compatriot Viktor Axelsen on Sunday. The latter beat Chinese Taipei's Chou Tien-chen 21-19, 21-15.
The women's doubles final will be an all-South Korean affair, with third seeds Lee So-hee and Shin Seung-chan meeting fourth seeds Kim So-yeong and Kong Hee-yong.