Badminton: Chinese Taipei's Tai Tzu-ying makes All England history

Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei in action during the singles final in the All-England Championships on Sunday. She defeated Thai former world champion Ratchanok Intanon 21-16, 22-20.
Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei in action during the singles final in the All-England Championships on Sunday. She defeated Thai former world champion Ratchanok Intanon 21-16, 22-20.PHOTO: XINHUA

World No. 1 shuttler is the tournament's first-ever champion from Chinese Taipei

LONDON • Tai Tzu-ying created history on Sunday by becoming the first All-England badminton champion in any discipline from Chinese Taipei.

The top seed was unpredictable but dangerous - with a smash clocked at 358kmh - and overcame the gifted Thai former world champion Ratchanok Intanon in the women's singles final despite trailing by five points in the second game.

The match also had a twist in the tail. Ratchanok seemed about to level the match at 20-18 in the second game when her sliced smash was called in.

But a video-replay appeal summoned an image showing the shuttle centimetres out.

And, buoyed by the adrenaline of that escape, Tai, 22, snatched three more points and the match, winning 21-16, 22-20.

In the process, the world No. 1 lived up to her reputation as the tournament favourite.

Tai simply played with a lot more confidence and she attributed her success to her hard work on her defence, adding: "I was very well-prepared for this match. I did a lot of work on defence. I am very happy that in this match I had a quick start, unlike my game before."

Ratchanok, 22, who also had an impressive run in the tournament, including beating Olympic champion Carolina Marin, once again let the title slip out of her hand.

"It's quite disappointing, but it was a really good match," said the Thai, who has been both the youngest world champion and the youngest finalist at the All England Championships at the age of 18.

"I felt a little nervous, I played well, but Tai Tzu-ying was better."

Both Tai and Ratchanok will be playing in next month's OUE Singapore Open.

According to The Indian Express, an opponent has to be fully prepared to take on Tai.

The newspaper noted that the world No. 1 is tricky, revels in deception and has forsaken a flashy style of play since her pre-quarter-final exit at last year's Rio Olympics, playing an intelligent game.

"She's marvellous to look at when in eloquent flow, but she does love her rhythm and when in full flow it dazzles rivals away," said The Indian Express.

On Sunday, Malaysian world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei beat Chinese debutant Shi Yuqi 21-12, 21-10 to win his fourth All-England men's singles title.

That was another hammer blow for China who were once a dominant force in the tournament.

This year, China captured only one title, the mixed doubles, through Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong, which equalled the lowest total in two decades for the sport's most successful country.

It left head coach Li Yongbo, who earlier claimed that the fallow period where winning titles is concerned "doesn't mean we are going to fall behind", still seeking evidence to support his assertion.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 14, 2017, with the headline 'Tai makes All-England history'. Print Edition | Subscribe