Ratchanok a victory away from repeat
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Ratchanok a victory away from repeat

Dechapol, Sapsiree face strong challenge

Ratchanok Intanon faces a formidable test against reigning Olympic and world champion Carolina Marin as she bids to retain her Malaysia Masters crown today.

Sixth seed Ratchanok defeated local star Goh Jin Wei 21-16, 21-16 in just 36 minutes while fourth seed Marin of Spain cruised past seventh seed Saina Nehwal of India 21-16, 21-13 in equally impressive fashion at Kuala Lumpur's Axiata Arena yesterday.

Both players, who are playing in their first tournament of the year, will be determined to kick-start their 2019 campaign with a title. Ratchanok, the 2013 world champion, is currently ranked eighth in the world while the left-handed Marin is at No.6.

In August last year, Marin became the first female player to win three badminton world titles when she beat India's PV Sindhu in Nanjing, China to add to her gold medals from 2014 and 2015.

Ratchanok defeated world No.1 Tai Tzu-ying to win the Kuala Lumpur title last year. She also beat the Taiwanese in the quarter-finals on Friday.

Mixed pair Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai could make it a double for Thailand after reaching their second final in as many weeks.

The second seeds defeated Dutch duo Robin Tabeling and Selena Piek 21-19, 21-14 in yesterday's semi-final -- a repeat of their last-four clash at the Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters in Bangkok last week.

They lost to Malaysia's Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying in the title match at Indoor Stadium Hua Mark and will hope to go one step further today.

However, they will face a strong challenge from top seeds Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino of Japan in today's final.

The Japanese pair scraped past third seeds Chan and Goh of China 21-15, 7-21, 21-14 in the other semi-final.

The men's singles title match will be a battle between Chen Long and Son Wan-Ho.

China's Chen knocked out Viktor Axelsen of Denmark 21-13, 21-18 while South Korean Son got a walkover from his Malaysian opponent Daren Liew, who pulled out of their semi-final match because of a leg injury.

Malaysia's only hope for title rests on Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi, who will take on top-ranked Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo of Indonesia in the men's doubles.

Japanese pair Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota and Indonesia's Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu will vie for the women's doubles crown.

Dechapol Puavaranukroh, left, and Sapsiree Taerattanachai.

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