Thailand shuttler Ratchanok on course to make women's singles history
Thai too good for Japanese giant-killer and books final date with Sun Yu
It was merely one point out of 75 played but the two vastly contrasting reactions at its conclusion, in many ways, defined yesterday's OUE Singapore Open women's singles semi-final between Ratchanok Intanon and Akane Yamaguchi at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Midway through the second game with the score 9-6 in Ratchanok's favour, her 18-year-old opponent decided to go on the offensive and seemed to gain the upper hand in the rally with some aggressive play.
But after seeing Ratchanok repel everything that was being thrown her way, Yamaguchi then watched on in horror as an attempted drop-shot caught the tape and landed back on her side of the net.
The Thai reacted with a pump of her fist and a spirited shout to show her delight while, at the other end of Court 1, Yamaguchi could only slump her shoulders and look to the heavens asking why.
It was as if the Japanese teenager knew that she would need everything to go her way to win against an in-form opponent.
Ultimately, that proved to be the case as there was no repeat of Yamaguchi's giant-killing feat on Friday when she ousted world No. 1 Carolina Marin, with the third seed having too much class as she booked her place in today's final with a 21-12, 22-20 triumph.
The past fortnight has been one to remember for Ratchanok following consecutive wins at the India Open and Malaysia Open.
Should Ratchanok lift the Singapore Open title, the Thai former world champion will be the first women's singles shuttler to win three straight titles in as many weeks. She will also overtake Spaniard Carolina Marin as the world No. 1.
She has been flying the flag high for Thailand, but the 21-year-old revealed with a wry smile that her success has surprisingly not sat well with everyone.
"I've read comments from my supporters in Thailand and they're afraid I'm taking part in too many competitions and that it's bad for my physical condition," she revealed.
"But I do a good job in taking care of myself and I definitely feel good.
"She (Yamaguchi) was coming back in the second game and I knew I couldn't let her see it on my face, but I was definitely feeling it.
"Now I face Sun Yu, whom I beat the last time we played against each other in the Thailand Masters, but I'm expecting a tough match.
"I'm also aware that I can become the world No. 1 if I win, so I want to challenge myself to do that."
Sun, who booked her place in the final with a 21-10, 21-16 win over compatriot He Bingjiao, insists she is not feeling any added pressure despite her status as defending champion.
"I'm looking forward to the final to show what I've got and, to me, it isn't important whether I win or lose," said the Dalian native.
"What's most important is that I do my best and give it all I've got." - GABRIEL TAN