By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
The Thai ace, who has been in peak form and beat the World No 1 and No 2 on the way to winning the Super 500 level in Malaysia on Sunday, has great memories of this tournament – she first won it eight years ago when she was only 15 years old.
Ratchanok got off to a great start, using her brilliant shot selection to build a convincing 7-2 lead but her Japanese opponent fought back cleverly to level at 7-7 and went on to take a lead at 11-9.
After the break, Ratchanok rallied to level at 17-17 and never looked back. She then employed a series of fierce smashes to earn four straight points and take the opening game in 19 minutes.
In the second game, the Thai enjoyed a string of unforced errors from her opponent to jump to a quick lead at 11-6. As play resumed after the intermission, Okuhara’s situation never improved as she lost most of the rallies due to her mistakes.
The Thai easily set up a match point at 20-10 by applying a well-disguised drop shot before she smashed it out to force an error from the Japanese on her first match point.
"I made some mistakes in the first game but I managed to raise my level and won the match. I will try hard to reach the final again," said Ratchanok.
The win saw her carry a 4-4 head-to-head record with the Japanese.
Up next for Ratchanok is India’s world No 12 Saina Nehwal, who knocked out compatriot and world No 2 Sindhu Pusarla 21-13 21-19.
The Indian No 2, also a former world No 1 like Ratchanok, will go into the semi-final with a 8-5 head-to-head advantage.