Ratchanok, Pornpawee make history at All England
Thailand’s top badminton players Ratchanok Intanon and Pornpawee Chorchuwong successfully reserved semi-final spots in the women's singles of the All England Open, a World Tour Super 1000 event, in Birmingham on Friday.
Two-time finalist and fourth-seeded Ratchanok survived a stiff challenge from Denmark’s Mia Blichfeldt before prevailing 18-21, 21-17, 21-10, while Thai No. 2 Pornpawee eliminated Beiwen Zhang of the US in straight games, 21-16, 21-19.
This marks the first time that Thailand has two representatives in the women's singles semi-finals at All England.
World No. 6 Ratchanok, who finished runner-up twice in 2013 and 2018, succumbed to her own nerves in the opener. But once she found momentum, the Thai dictated play with her superior all-court game to take the following games.
“I still trusted myself that I could come back even though I lost the first game,” said former world No. 1 Ratchanok. “I was trying to get used to her [Blichfeldt] rhythm because she's a fast player. She has improved a lot from our last meeting. She kept up her motivation, but I kept control over myself and tried not to rush things,” said Ratchanok. The Thai ace is attempting to reach her first World Tour Super 1000 final when she takes on second-seeded Nozomi Okuhara of Japan on Saturday.
Second-seeded Okuhara prevailed 18-21, 21-8, 21-16 against another Thai challenger, Busanan Ongbamrungphan.
“It will still be tough, though we don't have Carolina Marin, Tai Tzu Ying or the Chinese team here. We still have the Japanese players. Who controls the game better can win,” Ratchanok said.
Pornpawee, who won her first and only World Tour title in the Spain Masters (Super 300) last year, is in her first semi-final of a Super 1000 event.
“This is my first semi-final at the All England Open and I'm very happy. I think next round I will try to perform better. All the players [in the next round] are tough for me because they are all top 5 in the world and I have to fight. This has given me confidence but I have many things to learn,” said the world No. 11, who faces fifth seed PV Sindhu of India in the other semi-final. She trails the Indian 1-4 in head-to-head.
World champion Sindhu fought back after losing the opening game to beat former world No. 1 and third seed Akane Yamaguchi of Japan 16-21, 21-16, 21-19.
In the men’s singles quarter-finals, Sitthikom Thammasin was outclassed by world No 2 Viktor Axelsen 21-4 21-16.
Defending champion Axelsen meets fellow-Dane and third seed Anders Antonsen in the semi-final.
Malaysian sixth seed Lee Zii Jia stunned Japan's world No. 1 Kento Momota 21-16, 21-19 in the men's singles quarters.