JAPAN OPEN 2010 – Intanon to be ‘baptized’ by Lu Lan

Ratchanok Intanon, two-time World Junior Champion, is ready to make her first steps into the Super Series circuit in Tokyo on Wednesday after scooping her ticket for the main draw […]

Ratchanok Intanon, two-time World Junior Champion, is ready to make her first steps into the Super Series circuit in Tokyo on Wednesday after scooping her ticket for the main draw of the Yonex . She will take on another 2009 World Champion – Lu Lan.

By Raphael Sachetat.  Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

Tokyo, Sept 21st Ratchanok Intanon (photo) couldn’t hope for a better welcome into the world of big-time badminton tournaments: she is to play Lu Lan in the first round of her first Super Series event. The World Junior Champion from Thailand was all smiles when she left the court after the first of her two victories of the day in Tokyo, making her Lu Lan’s first opponent.

I’m excited to be here. This is my first Super Series,” said Ratchanok.  And I’m excited to play Lu Lan because she was a world champion too.

The soft spoken 15-year-old Thai was herself crowned the same year as Lu Lan, in 2009, only in a different category.  But she managed to keep her title in 2010 while Lu Lan did not even make it to Paris to try to defend hers.

But the Thai knows this is a big step to come out of the junior circuit and enter the senior league. “This is different. The players of the senior tour play much faster and are strong. I’m not yet there as I need to build up my pace and my strength. I’m here to learn,” she added with a smile, before stating her set goals for the year – or two – to come: “I want to enter the top 10 or 20 maybe”.

“I will just compete in the real Olympics”

Ratchanok was one of three Thai players to shine in 2010 amongst the juniors. She won the world title but couldn’t participate in the Youth Olympic Games, where she saw both her compatriots Pisit Poodchalat and Sapsiree Taerattanachai bring back gold in an incredible clean sweep for Thailand.

I knew I couldn’t compete there as I was too young. It’s okay. I was happy for Sapsiree that she could win the title. And for Pisit too, he’s my club-mate and we practice together,” said Intanon, who plays on a daily basis in a club in Bangkok with stars like Songphon Anugritayawon and Sudket Prapakamol.

I learn a lot from them.  As for the Youth Olympics, I know I won’t be able to compete in the next ones, but I intend to try to qualify for the real ones, in London in 2012.”

In the meantime, she will have to play her best to beat Lu Lan, who is an experienced player and eager to prove she deserved her spot in the Asian Games squad announced earlier by China’s Head Coach Li Yongbo.

The qualifying rounds were quickly wrapped up in the 6 courts of Tokyo Gymnasium, which were hit by a heat wave.  Ratchanok Intanon beat back-to-back two Japanese players – one of which was Ayane Kurihara.  The reigning Russian Open champion was seeded 4th in the qualifying rounds.  Indonesia’s Linda Wenifanetri didn’t survive this first day either, beaten by local Eriko Tamaki, herself beaten by Taipei’s Tse Ying Suet.

In the men’s singles qualifying draw, China’s Gao Huan (photo) was the unexpected victim of Japan’s other Russia Open champion, Takuma Ueda in one of the longest matches of the day, in spite of the coaching of Xia Xuanze.

The big guns are set to enter the event on Wednesday, with Lee Chong Wei returning to court after skipping the Li-Ning China Masters last week. The Malaysian mentioned he was still not 100%.

All results HERE

If you are to visit Tokyo for the Japan Open, you should stay in our partner hotel, the Chisun Grand Akasaka, a classy and modern hotel just a few minutes away from the venue, the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium.  Click HERE to find out more about our partner hotel.

Raphaël Sachetat

About Raphaël Sachetat

Raphael is the Chief Editor of Badzine International. He is the founder of the website together with Jean François Chauveau. After many years writing for the BWF and many publications around the world about badminton, he now leads a team of young and dynamic writers for Badzine.