Taipei, Taiwan's Tai Tzuying entered this week's Indonesian Open in need of a strong showing to remain the topranked women's badminton player in the world, and she pulled off a big win Friday against her nemesis to move a step closer to the goal.
Tai, who had lost five of her previous six matches against Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand before toppling her in Malaysia in April, outlasted her Thai rival again Friday 2118, 1621, 2112 in a battle that lasted just over an hour.
Tai appeared to be in trouble in the first game, trailing 117 and 1714, before rattling off seven of the final eight points to gain the early edge.
It was Intanon who stepped up the pace a game later, opening up a 126 lead after an early 55 stalemate, and she protected her advantage the rest of the game to even up the match.
But it was Tai who jumped out to a 136 lead in the deciding game, and never let Ratchanok get closer than three points before putting her away.
The 25yearold Taiwanese has plenty at stake in this tournament, only one of three toptier HSBC BWF World Tour Super 1000 events this year.
She is the defending champion and would love nothing more than to firmly establish herself on the court as the top player in the game in a season in which she has played sparingly.
In addition, her No. 1 ranking, which she has held for all but two weeks since December 2016, was in peril in Jakarta as her lead over No. 2 Nozomi Okuhara of Japan, No. 3 Chen Yufei of China and No. 4 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan was down to around a few thousand ranking points.
Tai's win Friday meant that she cannot be surpassed by Chen this week, but she will need to reach the finals of the US$1.25 million tournament to ensure she stays ahead of Okuhara.
Chen and Okuhara were playing separate matches later Friday for spots in the semifinals.
Tai will next play the winner of the quarterfinal showdown between Yamaguchi and Nitchaon Jindapol of Thailand, scheduled for later Friday.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel