BANGKOK • Reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin has bolstered her chances of claiming back-to-back gold medals in Tokyo after beating top seed Tai Tzu-ying yesterday to win the women's singles at the Yonex Thailand Open.
The opening event of the Badminton World Federation World Tour in Bangkok also saw Denmark's Viktor Axelsen winning the men's title after beating Hong Kong's Angus Ng in straight sets.
Spaniard Marin, 27, a former world No. 1, was an imposing force with razor-sharp smashes, clever net work and an unmatched level of aggression and agility.
She screamed in delight as she won match point in the second set after steamrolling her 26-year-old opponent from Chinese Taipei 21-9, 21-16 in 42 minutes.
"I wanted to show her from the beginning that I wanted to win," Marin said.
The first non-Asian women's player to win an Olympic badminton gold medal, she has faced an uphill battle to recover from a January 2019 knee injury in time to defend her crown in Tokyo in July.
It was also an emotional first win for her since the death of her father last year. After the victory, she turned to the camera to say "te amo papi" or "I love you daddy".
World No. 1 Tai admitted she was not able to keep pace and she was not helped by some stomach discomfort, which forced her to take a timeout in the opening game. "Carolina is always fast and aggressive. That is her playing style. Today she put a lot of pressure on me," she said.
Despite nursing a cold, Axelsen took just 44 minutes to triumph 21-14, 21-14 over Ng. It was back-to-back tournament wins for the Dane, 10 months apart, after claiming the All England Badminton Championship in mid-March.
"I knew I had to be 110 per cent going into the final. And having not played for so long, really happy that I managed to win," he said.
Ng said he was surprised to have made it so far. "I just didn't perform my best, maybe at 70 per cent today," he added.
The Thailand Open is the first of three consecutive tournaments in Bangkok culminating in the World Tour Finals from Jan 27.
The players have been facing off in a bio-secure bubble minus spectators, although the tournament has been overshadowed by three positive coronavirus cases.
Indonesia's Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu were too good for Thailand's Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai in the women's doubles final, prevailing 21-15, 21-12.
The win marked a record fourth title in Thailand for Polii.
In the mixed doubles, top-seeded Thais Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai took eight minutes to claim the first game against Indonesia's Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti 21-3.
The second set was neck and neck with the home team going down 20-22, but the locals were too strong in the decider, winning 21-18. In the men's doubles Chinese Taipei's Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin beat Malaysia's Goh V Shem and Tan Wee Kiong 21-16, 21-23, 21-19.
The next tournament begins tomorrow.