Bangkok: The odds stacked against her underdog side, Thailand’s badminton star Ratchanok Intanon was brimming with confidence Friday night before her team reversed all singles matches in the Uber Cup semi-final tie against badminton powerhouse China who had won the trophy for a staggering 14 time.
Intanon rallied from one set down to take the first women’s singles in a thrilling 15-21, 21-9, 21-14 win over China’s Chen Yufei, recording her first career victory against the Chinese player in their fifth meetings.
The crowd was shouting “Thailand! Thailand!” for every point Intanon scored during the match.
“I was a bit excited because every point was important, especially in the decider,” said Intanon.
“I thank the Thai fans for their support!”
Although Thailand lost both of its women’s doubles, but Nitchaon Jindapol and Busanan Ongbamrungphan backed up Intanon’s belief in a stirring rally, winning matches to give Thailand a 3-2 comeback victory at the Impact Arena in Bangkok.
In a marathon 3-setter, Nitchaon Jindapol put up a spirited fight, coming from dropping a set to beat Gao Fangjie 19-21, 21-19, 21-12 in a 1 hour and 31 minutes thriller that brought the crowd to their feet.
The crowd at the Impact Arena was decidedly behind Busanan Ongbamrungphan, Thailand’s third women’s singles player when she played under pressure to demolish the 2012 Olympic champion Li Xuerui who recently returned from a lengthy injury layoff, 21-11, 21-9 in 33 minutes to score historic win for Thailand to reach Uber Cup final.
This was the first time the Chinese Uber Cup team had failed to make the Uber Cup final since they first joined the Uber Cup competition in 1984.
In the other Uber Cup semi-final, after Akane Yamaguchi scored the first point for Japan, but then the top seeds surprisingly lost their first women’s doubles match to Korea.
The reigning World champion Nozomi Okuhara gave her team a 2-1 lead by outlasting Lee Jang Mi 21-9, 21-15 before Misaki Matsutomo/Ayaka Takahashi securing their shot at the Uber Cup title by overcoming Baek Ha Na/Lee Yu Rim of Korea.
“My senior team-mates encouraged me to just play my best, so I was only focusing on playing good badminton,” said Okuhara.
“I think it will be a tough battle whoever I face tomorrow,” added Okuhara.