Unseeded Tai Tzu-ying of Taiwan beat Sayaka Sato of Japan on Saturday in the women’s singles final of the US Open Grand Prix Gold tournament to win her first international championship.
Tai, ranked No. 24 in the world by the Badminton World Federation, won the match 21-16, 19-21, 21-6 against eighth-seeded Sato, ranked No. 19 in the world.
A day earlier, the 17-year-old upset fifth-seeded Eriko Hirose of Japan in straight sets to advance to the final of the US$120,000 event.
Tai’s best showing prior to this victory was at the Li-Ning Singapore Open Super Series last year, in which she reached the women’s singles final before losing to Saina Nehwal of India.
Tai has always had the makings of one of the nation’s top badminton prospects.
She qualified for the top badminton division as a sixth grader, the fastest to rise to such a level since Cheng Shao-chieh, who was seeded second in US Open women’s singles, but lost in the quarter-finals.
She also represented Taiwan in the 2009 East Asian Games and at the biennial Sudirman Cup this year.
If Tai can keep her ranking high through next year, she could earn a spot at the London Olympics.
Qualifiers for the London Games will be chosen based on players’ federation rankings as of May 3 next year.
However, Tai’s father is in no rush to see his daughter compete for an Olympic medal.
“I told her that she was not playing for me and that we weren’t in a rush. Even if she can’t go to London next year, she can always work toward the 2016 or 2020 games,” her father said.
In the other action, Taiwan’s Chen Hung-ling and Cheng Wen-hsing lost in the mixed doubles final to Lee Yong-dae and Ha Jung-eun of South Korea 21-19, 21-13.