HONG KONG (AFP) - Two-time world champion Carolina Marin of Spain took her sixth badminton title of the year at the Hong Kong Open on Sunday, beating Japan's Nozomi Okuhara in a tightly fought marathon three games.
The epic 84-minute final - the longest match in the women's competition this tournament - saw the world No. 1 needing six championship points before finally taking the crown 21-17, 18-21, 22-20.
After steaming through the first set, Marin was seven points down in the second games. The Spaniard looked on course for victory early on in the third until her Japanese rival had a late surge.
"I think it was a tough match. She had a good comeback at the end of the game but I tried to just keep myself down and think positive things that I can beat her," said the 22-year-old.
The Spaniard has had a strong year, retaining her world championship title in August and shooting up the rankings from No. 8 to the top spot.
Okuhara took her first title at a Super Series tournament on home ground in September, beating compatriot Akane Yamaguchi in an all-Japanese final.
The 20-year-old had previously beaten Marin, in last year's semi-finals, but she then failed to take the title, falling to Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu-ying.
"I could not win but I have confidence because I still managed to catch up (in the third set) with Marin, who is the world No. 1," said Okuhara.