New world No. 1 Ratchanok eyes Olympic gold
Ratchanok is new world No. 1 after Singapore Open win, targets Olympic gold next
She saw the shuttlecock sail past her, seemingly beyond the field of play and sunk to her knees, thinking she had won the OUE Singapore Open women's singles title yesterday.
Even with China's Sun Yu challenging for the point, Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon was convinced that she had won the match at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
The 21-year-old sunk to her knees again moments later, after video replays showed that the Chinese player had won the point.
But, the 2013 world champion was not to be denied and clinched the tie two points later at 18-21, 21-11, 21-14.
It was the soft-spoken world No. 2's third title in three tournaments, after victories in the India Superseries and the Malaysia Superseries Premier events the previous two weeks.
Ratchanok's success in Singapore will propel her to the top of the world rankings this week, displacing current No. 1 Carolina Marin of Spain.
Her next big target will be the Rio Olympic Games in August, when the 1.69m-tall Thai shuttler has set her sights on a historic gold medal.
No Thai player has won a badminton medal at the quadrennial sports extravaganza.
Ratchanok said: "I am more confident now for the Olympic Games... I can do it."
Sun Yu was on the verge of spoiling Ratchanok's party, after she won the first set and led midway through the second, before the Thai turned the tables.
Things got worse for Sun Yu when she trailed 16-11 in the second set and was shown a yellow card for wiping herself down without the umpire's permission.
The 22-year-old said: "I was a bit affected by that decision. I wasn't delaying play and I didn't know why the umpire showed me a yellow card. I was leading at that time and, mentally, I was a bit affected."
Mental strength played a big part in Ratchanok's victory, as she rallied to win even though she looked tired at the start of the final.
She said: "My body is very tired from the past few weeks... And I thought today was not going to be my day.
"She played well in the first set and, during the second set, I just told myself that even if I lost, I had to close the gap."
Ratchanok's journey to the top of the women's singles rankings was paved with tears and hard work, with the shuttler sometimes struggling to meet her coach's expectations.
She said: "I cried because I was tired and, sometimes, I was not able to do what the coach needed me to do.
"But today, I have done it (became the world No. 1) and I feel proud of myself. I feel like my fellow Thais, my family and my company can be proud of me."
In other finals, South Korea's Ko Sung Hyun and Kim Ha Na defeated China's Xu Chen and Ma Jin 21-17, 21-14 to lift the mixed doubles title, while China's Fu Haifeng and Zhang Nan beat Japan's Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda 21-11, 22-20 for the men's doubles title.
Indonesia's Nitya Krishinda Maheswari and Greysia Polii clinched the women's doubles title, after Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi of Japan withdrew from the final due to an ankle injury to Matsutomo.
"We are so sorry, and we promise to be back next year," the Japanese pair addressed the stadium through a translator before the prize presentation, to applause and cheers.
MEN'S SINGLES FINAL
- Sony Dwi Kuncoro (Ina) bt Son Wan Ho (Kor) 21-16, 13-21, 21-14
WOMEN'S SINGLES FINAL
- Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) beat Sun Yu (Chn) 18-21, 21-11, 21-14
MEN'S DOUBLES FINAL
- Fu Haifeng/Zhang Nan (Chn) beat Takeshi Kamura/Keigo Sonoda (Jpn) 21-11, 22-20
WOMEN'S DOUBLES FINAL
- Nitya Krishinda Maheswari/Greysia Polii (Ina) beat Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi (Jpn) - walkover
MIXED DOUBLES FINAL
- Ko Sung Hyun/Kim Ha Na (Kor) beat Xu Chen/Ma Jin (Chn) 21-17, 21-14
Dropped by Indonesia, Kuncoro wins Singapore Open
Two years ago, shuttler Sony Dwi Kuncoro was at the lowest point of his career after being kicked out of the Indonesian national team because of nagging injuries and below-par performances.
The 2004 Athens Olympics bronze medallist, once ranked fourth in the world, felt lost and took three months off the sport.
On his return, he had to start from scratch and source for his own sponsors for shoes and rackets.
Also, his compatriots were starting to forget about him, with the rise of juniors such as Andre Kurniawan Tedjono, Jonatan Christie and Firman Abdul Kholik.
Still, the three-time Asian champion perservered.
Yesterday, the 31-year-old was rewarded with the Singapore Open title, after a 21-16, 13-21, 21-14 win over South Korea's Son Wan Ho that came with a US$26,250 ($35,600) winner's cheque.
He said: "I am really happy, it's really unexpected that I won. It's been a long and meaningful journey for me.
LONG WAY TO FINAL
"Leaving the national team was a shock because I was so used to life there. Since I left, it's become harder for me to participate in a Superseries tournament, let alone win one.
"It was a long journey and I had to take it step by step. I worked really hard and I am thankful for my coach, my wife and my manager, who supported me all the way."
Kuncoro had to play in the qualifiers to reach the main draw. He claimed the scalps of Japan's Sho Sasaki and China's Wang Zhengming before his sensational 21-10, 17-21, 22-20 semi-final win over two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan on Saturday.
Kuncoro said: "I was really tired from playing all the matches, not just against Lin Dan. I just tried to enjoy today's game and perform well."
Despite the win, the world No. 56 is unlikely to qualify for the Rio Olympics, with the likes of Tommy Sugiarto (world No. 9), Christie (25), Anthony Ginting (27), Ihsan Maulana Mustofa (32) and Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka (37) ranked ahead of him.
Each country can send a maximum of two shuttlers to the Olympics, subject to world rankings.
Kuncoro said: "It's definitely everyone's dream to play in the Olympics, but I do understand that my points won't qualify me. I will just focus on other tournaments.
"As long as I have the desire to practise, to work hard and to win, I can see myself playing even after I turn 35, after seeing real-life examples such as Boonsak (Ponsana of Thailand, who is 34)."
- LIM SAY HENG