Ratchanok aiming for glory despite punishing schedule

Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon playing in the Indonesia Open in Jakarta this past week, when she was eliminated in the last eight. With just one title this year, she hopes to win the July 17-22 Singapore Open.
Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon playing in the Indonesia Open in Jakarta this past week, when she was eliminated in the last eight. With just one title this year, she hopes to win the July 17-22 Singapore Open.PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

It is turning out to be a gruelling month for Ratchanok Intanon, but the Thai badminton player is determined to end her four-week, four-tournament schedule with a trophy.

The 23-year-old was a losing semi-finalist at last week's Malaysia Open before she flew to Jakarta for the Indonesia Open, where she lost 21-12, 21-12 to South Korea's Sung Ji-hyun in the quarter-finals on Friday.

The world No. 4 is entered in the upcoming Thailand Open, followed by the July 17-22 Singapore Open where she is the top seed.

While she has set herself a target of reaching at least the last four in all four stops, she has loftier ambitions for the US$355,000 (S$480,000) Singapore leg.

"I don't know how strong I can be, playing in four tournaments back-to-back but, when I go to Singapore, I am aiming to be the champion there because I have a big chance to win," said the former world No. 1 on the sidelines of the Indonesia event on Thursday.

She has one title this year - the Malaysia Masters in January - and, in May, skippered Thailand to a historic second place in the Uber Cup, their best showing in five appearances at the biennial tournament.

They shocked China 3-2 in the semi-finals before losing 3-0 to Japan in the final in Bangkok.

"We were one team during the Uber Cup because we had a training camp before that where we got to know one another pretty well," Ratchanok said. "We felt like one during the competition and really supported one another."

She won three back-to-back Badminton World Federation SuperSeries titles (India, Malaysia and Singapore) to become Thailand's first world No. 1 in April 2016, months before the Rio Olympics.

There have been lows as well. Tipped as a medal contender, her preparations were hit by a provisional suspension for doping. She was cleared but was affected by the incident and lost to Japan's Akane Yamaguchi in the round of 16.

The Uber Cup run was a breakthrough but will have little bearing for Thailand at the July 30-Aug 5 World Championships in Nanjing and the Aug 18-Sept 2 Asian Games in Indonesia.

Ratchanok said: "We hope the team spirit will continue, but we are not thinking that no one can beat us just because of how we did at the Uber Cup. We must still play our usual game. A lot of teams, like Indonesia, Japan, China and Chinese Taipei are still very strong."

Her expectations of herself are more demanding. She said: "When I won (the world championship in 2013), I did not have so much pressure to do well and I was happy that I could play in the final.

"But now I expect a lot more from myself, that I have to be better and better... it is difficult to go back to the top again; when I left (the world No. 1 spot) other players took over and I have had to keep up with them. But I don't want that, and I just have to keep getting stronger and stronger."

• Singapore Open tickets available via Sports Hub Tix and Apactix.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 08, 2018, with the headline 'Ratchanok aiming for glory despite punishing schedule'. Print Edition | Subscribe