Taiwanese badminton star Tai Tzu-ying (戴資穎) reached the women’s singles finals at the Thailand Open 2022 after surviving a serious scare against Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand in the semifinals Saturday.
In a rematch of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics women’s singles quarterfinals, Tai and Ratchanok once again played a marathon before Tai, the top seed and world No. 2, overcame her Thai opponent 10-21, 21-13, 21-19 in 58 minutes at the Impact Arena in Bangkok.
With the win, Tai extended her head-to-head advantage over her longtime nemesis to 17-14 and advanced to a showdown for the title against Chen Yufei (陳雨菲) of China, to whom she lost in the Tokyo Olympic finals in an incredibly long 81-minute, three-game barn burner.
“It was hard to keep rallies going in the first two games because of the direction of the wind inside the arena, but things heated up in the third game,” Tai told CNA after the match.
“Intanon attacked better in the third game, and put me under a lot of pressure, so I just told myself to be patient and try to defend well first before thinking about going for a point.”
The Thai rolled off the final 11 points of the first game, and Tai won the second game comfortably after opening with an 8-2 run to set the stage for a pulsating rubber game.
Ratchanok held a narrow lead early on, and she eventually opened a small cushion at 15-11 on some well-placed shots.
Tai fought back to 16-16 with the patience she talked about, defending well and moving Ratchanok around before wrong-footing her with a series of trademark deceptive shots.
But when Tai hit a routine forehand into the net at 16-16 and a sloppy cross-court forehand slap that went wide at 17-18, Ratchanok appeared poised to take the match.
The Thai immediately returned the favor, however, netting a smash at 19-17, and then Tai suddenly went into full attack mode to grab the final three points, including a down the line punch that fooled a retreating Ratchanok on match point, to win the match.
When asked about facing China’s Chen, who won Olympic gold in Tokyo by tracking down everything Tai threw at her, the Taiwanese said Chen is a very consistent player and makes very few errors, and she hoped she could stay patient and limit her own mistakes.
2022 has not been a particular good year for Tai after playing only one event in 2021 following the Olympics — the World Championships in December.
She bowed out in the round of 16 in the German Open in mid-March, followed the next week by a third-place finish in the All-England Championships, and a loss to current world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi last week at the team Uber Cup tournament.
In Thailand, Tai started off her Thailand Open campaign by defeating Julie Dawall Jakobsen of Denmark 18-21, 21-9, 21-5 Wednesday, followed by sweeping past Ruselli Hartawan of Indonesia 21-15, 21-14 Thursday, and outdueling He Bingjiao (何冰嬌) of China 21-10, 14-21, 21-18 Friday.
Tai was named the BWF Female Player of the Year in December 2021, in recognition of a stellar season that saw her clinch silver at the World Championships and at the Summer Olympics.