SPAIN MASTERS – First major title for Pornpawee Chochuwong

Pornpawee Chochuwong bested top seed and home favourite Carolina Marin to claim the Spain Masters Super 300 title, the first major crown of the 22-year-old Thai’s young career. By Don […]

Pornpawee Chochuwong bested top seed and home favourite Carolina Marin to claim the title, the first major crown of the 22-year-old Thai’s young career.

By Don Hearn.  Photos: Raphael Sachetat / Badmintonphoto (live)

Pornpawee Chochuwong (pictured above) has been on the radar for a long time.  She reached her first International Challenge final way back in 2013, when she was the reigning Asian Under-15 champion.  But on the other hand, her exploits have obviously been overshadowed by those of her fellow Thai prodigies Ratchanok Intanon and Busanan Ongbamrungphan.

Chochuwong reached her first Gold final in 2017, shortly after finishing as runner-up in her last World Junior Championship outing but the last time she actually won a title was back in 2015, at the India International Challenge.  And her prospects didn’t look good, as she was facing three-time World Champion Carolina Marin (pictured right) for the title.  Marin was playing with a home crowd behind her and even when the roles were reversed, at last month’s Thailand Masters, the Spaniard had trounced her Thai opponent to record her fifth straight win in their rivalry.

Early in the match, it looked as if the familiar pattern would repeat itself, as Marin took the opening game handily 21-11.  But Chochuwong fought back hard in the second game, refusing to let her opponent dictate the rallies, and finding the lines exactly when she needed to.

Carolina Marin opened up an ominous 7-3 lead early in the decider but Chochuwong had the desire and nosed ahead before the interval.  The Thai never showed any of the nerves you might expect as she was closing in on both her first major title and her first victory over the Olympic gold medallist.  She stayed strong and consistent until the time came for her to erupt in joy as the last shuttle sailed out.

Along with the glory and the winner’s cheque, the victory also puts Pornpawee Chochuwong just one spot shy of the top 16, where she would have to be to be eligible for selection for the Tokyo Olympics.  However, she is still a few thousand points short of Thailand’s second-ranked Ongbamrungphan.

First major mixed title for Kim Sa Rang

Koreans Kim Sa Rang and Kim Ha Na (pictured above) started off finals day but bouncing back from one game down to beat Thom Gicquel / Delphine Delrue in three.  The French pair had a dominant attacking game in the opener but the Koreans kept it flat in the next two, continually forcing the Europeans to take the shuttle from below the tape.  Kim Ha Na spent ample time in the backcourt, as Sa Rang repeatedly took his turn rushing to put pressure at the net.

It was Kim Sa Rang’s first major final in mixed doubles.  In fact, he had played very little mixed before teaming up with Kim Ha Na a few months ago, although he did make some waves way back in 2012 when he reached the semis of the Asian Championships with Choi Hye In.  He also made it to the final four of the Indonesia Grand Prix Gold that year with his now wife Eom Hye Won and his last podium finish was at the Gwangju Universiade in 2015.

European shuttlers came up short in the first three matches on Sunday in Barcelona, in fact.  As with the other two finals, the women’s doubles saw the European side take the first game but the showdown between Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu of Indonesia and Bulgaria’s Gabriela Stoeva / Stefani Stoeva (pictured bottom) turned into a 96-minute marathon, at the end of which the Stoeva sisters just could not keep attacking consistently enough to outlast the Indonesian defense.

Denmark takes two

Viktor Axelsen (pictured) was the only repeat winner at the 2020 Spain Masters.  He took on three-time World Junior Champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn, who was playing in his first major international final, just a few weeks after making his first semi-final.

The match was a fairly smooth victory for the former World Champion, although the Dane took a worrying spill when he lost his footing on the slippery court surface late in the second game.  Axelsen shouted angrily for the court to be mopped and on social media earlier in the week, he had been quite critical of the playing conditions in the frigid hall.

The last match of the day also featured a defending champion but Lee Yang / Wang Chi Lin just couldn’t sustain the advantage over Denmark’s Kim Astrup / Anders Skaarup Rasmussen.  The Danish pair was trailing late in the second game but surged to a four-point run to take the title in straight games.

The world’s top shuttlers now have a week break before many will head to Mulheim, Germany for the German Open, while others will wait one more week and resume competing at the All England.  The only Barcelona finalists not aiming for those two events are the Koreans, who will next be in action at the Swiss Open.

Final results
XD:  Kim Sa Rang / Kim Ha Na (KOR) beat Thom Gicquel / Delphine Delrue (FRA) [6]  15-21, 21-11, 21-10
WD:  Greysia Polii / Apriyani Rahayu (INA) [1] beat Gabriela Stoeva / Stefani Stoeva (KOR) [3]  18-21, 22-20, 21-17
WS:  Pornpawee Chochuwong (THA) [6] beat Carolina Marin (KOR) [1]  11-21, 21-16, 21-18
MS:  Viktor Axelsen (DEN) [1] beat Kunlavut Vitidsarn (THA)  21-16, 21-13
MD:  Kim Astrup / Anders Skaarup Rasmussen (DEN) [4] beat Lee Yang / Wang Chi Lin (TPE) [1]  21-17, 21-19

Click here for complete results

Don Hearn

About Don Hearn

Don Hearn is an Editor and Correspondent who hails from a badminton-loving town in rural Canada. He joined the Badzine team in 2006 to provide coverage of the Korean badminton scene and is committed to helping Badzine to promote badminton to the place it deserves as a global sport. Contact him at: don @