Teen badminton player Tai Tzu-ying became the first Taiwanese to win a Super Series singles event when she edged Japanese Eriko Hirose 9-21, 21-9, 21-14 at the Japan Open yesterday.
The 18-year-old Kaohsiung native, the fifth seed at the event, came from behind to claim victory in a 57-minute match and made history for her country. The Chinese players all withdrew in protest amid a territorial dispute between China and Japan over the Diaoyutai Islands (釣魚台).
Two years ago, Tai lost to Saina Nehwal of India in the final of the Singapore Open and lost her chance to win her first Super Series title. This time, she seized the opportunity to become only the second Taiwanese winner at the Japan event and the first to take a singles title.
Taiwanese duo Chen Hong-lin and Cheng Wen-hsing dominated the mixed-doubles events last year and won in that category.
Tai, ranked 12th in the world, said she did not set any targets for the tourney, but only wanted to perform the best she could. Despite the major triumph for both for herself and Taiwan, Tai said she was not completely satisfied.
“The goal my father has set for me is to rise to the world’s top 10 this year. I’m just one step away from that threshold,” she said after the game.
Tai is expected to overtake South Korea’s Yeon Ju-bae, climbing one spot in the world rankings that will be released later this week. The highest-ranking female player in Taiwan will have a great chance to jump higher in the rankings at the Yonex Open Chinese Taipei, which will be held from Oct. 2 to Oct. 7 in Sinjhuang, New Taipei City. The Grand Prix Gold tournament, the highest-level international badminton competition to be held in Taiwan, has a total purse of US$200,000.
Two-time champion Lee Chon-wei fended off a spirited challenge from Boonsak Ponsana to win the men’s singles title.
The Malaysian top seed, the winner in Japan in 2007 and 2010, powered his way through to a 21-18, 21-18 victory over the Thai.
South Korea’s Kim Ki-jung and Kim Sa-rang defeated Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong 21-16, 21-19 to win the men’s doubles, while Poon Lok-yan and Tse Ying-suet brought the first Japan title to Hong Kong.
They also dashed local hopes by beating Shizuka Matsuo and Mami Naito 21-17, 22-20.
Earlier in the day, Chan Peng Soon teamed up with Goh Liu Ying to beat Indonesia’s Mohammed Rijal and Liliyana Natsir 21-12, 21-19 in the mixed doubles final.
“It was really a good match, but it was tough,” said Lee, 29.
“This is my first tournament after the London Olympics. I’m very happy to start with this victory. I can put my disappointment behind me,” said Lee, who lost to China’s Lin Dan in the Olympic finals both in London and Beijing.
Lee hit a smash to take the first game, but neither could take a decisive lead at the start of the second game, which at one point was tied at 5-5.
Lee then jumped ahead 10-6 with several disguised overhead drop shots combined with a smash before powering his way to a commanding 20-15 lead.
Boonsak tenaciously saved three match points while trailing 18-20, but his jump smash went wide after a long rally on the next point, giving the 42-minute match to Lee.
The win saw Lee improve his record against Boonsak to 14 wins against two defeats.