18-year-old Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand beat world #1 Li Xuerui to win the women’s singles title at the Wang Lao Ji BWF World Badminton Championships.
By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent live in Guangzhou. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)
Ratchanok Intanon has just been racking up the distinctions because of her youth in the past 4 years. She was the youngest World Junior Champion, then the youngest Superseries winner. Coming into today’s match, she was already the youngest World Championship finalist since 1995 and the youngest ever in a singles final.
But no matter how accustomed we are to Ratchanok surprises, it was still unreal to see he close in on Li Xuerui, the woman who has been so dominant over the past two years.
Ratchanok’s game had everything: considerable power, fantastic stamina, impossibly tight net shots. What’s more, she was able to neutralize Li Xuerui’s attacks with controlled, flat returns and rarely seemed to give Li the opportunity to rush in for a kill.
After an hour and five minutes, it was Ratchanok Intanon sinking to her knees in celebration. She is the youngest ever singles World Champion, just a few months older than Jang Hye Ock was when she won the women’s doubles crown in 1995, just a few months after Ratchanok was born.
“She seemed to be very relaxed, which increased the pressure on me,” said Li Xuerui after the match. “Her tactics were good and she fought hard throughout the match.
“For me, I readlly don’t know what I was doing in the first game. I was a little distracted I wasn’t concentrating on the match and was a bit passive as well.
“All the Thai players, and especially Ratchanok, have been getting better and better. I think China’s players still have the techniques but women’s singles is becoming more competitive.
“Young players from other countries have been studying our older players but we will adapt and come up with new strategies to beat these younger players. We will study them as well.”
Thai badminton princess to meet Thai queen
Ratchanok Intanon was all smiles as she came in for her press conference, accompanied by her coach and translator.
“Because of the influence of the Thai men’s doubles, I hope that my win can help to change people’s image of Thai badminton,” said Ratchanok.
“Another thing is that tomorrow is Mother’s Day in Thailand and also the queen’s birthday and I am going to meet the queen tomorrow and take this big victory to the queen and I will also take it as a gift to my mother.
“For myself, this win has given me so much more confidence. Before, I didn’t think I could beat the real top players but now after today’s win, I think I can.
“Li Xuerui wasn’t at her best. I think she was nervous because she had a lot of pressure as the Olympic champion.
“During my whole match, I just kept thinking ‘I have to stick with it. I have to fight until the end’, so at the end, the memories of all the tough training through all the years just came flooding back and I felt ‘Wow. It’s such a reward. Finally, I’ve done it.’”
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