BANGKOK: Top-ranked Tai Tzu-ying won a dramatic cliffhanger women's badminton World Tour Final in Bangkok Sunday, blocking reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin's bid for a hat-trick of titles in three weeks.
Marin beat the Taiwanese 26-year-old two weeks in a row during the previous Thailand Open tournament finals.
But the Spaniard had a shaky start Sunday as Tai exploited holes in her defence, mounting a successful comeback in the later stages and winning the opener 21-14.
Marin was loud and fiesty in her verbal celebrations and a visibly annoyed Tai soon found her own voice.
The pair also played mind games over shuttlecock changes.
In the second game Tai dominated early and dictated a commanding pace, eventually triumphing 21-8.
The decider was filled with fast and furious rallies – both players yo-yoed up and down the scoreboard – but two late spectacular drop shots were critical in sealing Tai's victory 21-19.
Thailand has hosted three consecutive badminton tournaments in a bio-secure coronavirus bubble, without spectators to guard against the pandemic.
In the men's singles Viktor Axelsen, ranked fourth, is vying for a third win in three weeks and is on a 29-match winning streak.
It's an all-Danish final – Axelsen now plays third-seed Anders Antonsen.
The women's doubles was an all-Korean showdown with fourth-ranked Lee So-hee and Shin Seung-chan pushing sixth-ranked Kim So-yeong and Kong Hee-yong to three games over 92 minutes.
Lee and Shin lost the first game 15-21 before scrapping through to claim the second 26-24.
They had momentum early in the third game and were able to hold off a late resurgence from their opponents to win the decider 21-19.
In the men's doubles, seventh-ranked Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Taiwan won their third title in three weeks.
They beat Indonesia's Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan 21-17, 23-21 in 37 minutes.
Lee admitted the pair "were nervous coming in the finals here."
"We were playing our idols. I thought: 'oh my god, oh my god.' Three titles is incredible," he said.
Thailand's third seeds Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Dechapol Puavaranukroh are also going for a trio of titles.
They are up against sixth-ranked South Koreans Seo Seung-jae and Chae Yoo-jung. – AFP