New heights beckon for Ratchanok

New heights beckon for Ratchanok

Thai ace seals hat-trick,sets sights on Rio gold

Ratchanok Intanon wanted to become the world's No.1 badminton player and she will be the top shuttler when the new rankings are published on Thursday.

The reigning Asian champion will become the first top-ranked badminton star from Thailand after her 18-21, 21-11, 21-14 win over China's Sun Yu in the Singapore Open final yesterday.

With the win, the 21-year-old Thai also became the first female player to capture three Superseries (top tier) titles in a row, having triumphed in India and Malaysia in the previous two weeks.

The Yasothon native is familiar with setting records.

She is the first Thai to have won the world title with her success in 2013.

The triumph in Guangzhou made her the youngest ever world champion in the sport at the age of 18.

At 14, she was the sport's youngest ever world junior champion in 2009.

She retained the title in 2010 and 2011 and became the first badminton player to win three world junior crowns.

Her ultimate goal is to win an Olympic medal and she is now a legitimate contender for the top prize at the 2016 Games in Rio in August.

In fact, she could have won an Olympic medal at the junior level at the inaugural Youth Olympics in 2010.

Unfortunately, Ratchanok was not allowed to take part in the event in Singapore because a badminton player must be at least 18 years old to compete in the Youth Olympics.

At the senior level, Ratchanok came close to becoming the first Thai badminton player to win an Olympic medal at the 2012 London Games.

In her quarter-final clash with China's Wang Xin, Ratchanok won the first game and raced to a 16-9 lead in the second.

But the Thai teenager then cracked under pressure and ran out of steam as the Chinese rallied to win 2-1.

Ratchanok burst into tears after the setback and vowed to make a strong comeback in Rio.

"It was my worst experience as a player,'' Ratchanok said recently.

"When I was interviewed by reporters, I couldn't stop crying."

Ratchanok had often lost to Chinese players but she has ended the jinx over the past few years.

She has defeated Olympic champion Li Xuerui on several occasions including in the final of both the 2013 world championships and 2015 Asian championships.

Both tournaments were held on Li's home soil in China.

Ratchanok also secured her first ever win against Wang Yihan in 13 meetings at the Malaysia Open on her way to winning the title earlier this month.

"After beating Wang Yihan for the first time, I feel more confident. It will be a huge confidence boost for me since I'm aiming to win a medal at the Rio de Janeiro Olympics in August," said Ratchanok after her Malaysia victory.

Now, Ratchanok's focus will be on a podium finish in Rio.

"I believe I can win an Olympic medal and I am focusing on the gold. There are many good players but if I can play to my best I can beat anyone," said Ratchanok.

Kuncoro takes men's title

Indonesia's Sony Dwi Kuncoro beat Korean Son Wan-Ho 2-1 to win the men's singles title at the Singapore Open yesterday.

The unfancied Kuncoro, who stunned two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan in the semi-finals, took the first set 21-16.

But some bad decision making cost the 31-year-old dearly when he succumbed 13-21 in the second set. Recovering his composure, the 2004 Olympic Games bronze medallist claimed the deciding set 21-14. Bangkok Post/AFP

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