By Lerpong Amsa-ngiam
World No 4 Ratchanok Intanon hopes that home support will boost Thailand’s hopes of achieving a “Mission Impossible” in the Thomas and Uber Cups, which take place at the Impact Arena Muang Thong Thani from May 20 to 27.
The former world No 1 will lead the local 10-player team into the women’s biennual Uber Cup, which consists of 16 teams divided into four groups of four.
Thailand is placed in Group B along with Germany, Hong Kong and Taiwan, who are spearheaded by world No 1 Tai Tzu-ying.
The Badminton Association of Thailand (BAT) is confident the women, who are seeded fourth, will finish top of their group and then win at least their quarter-final too.
The top two teams in each group move into the quarter-finals, the same format as for the men’s Thomas Cup
The 23-year-old Ratchanok said her squad could live up to the expectations if a huge turn-up assembled to support the Thai women.
“We have a good draw and stand a shot at winning the group stage but after that it will be really tough,” said Ratchanok, winner of the February’s Malaysian Masters, where she upset world No 1 Tai in a nailbiting final.
“However, if a lot of fans come to cheer, it can be a great driving force for us to go even further.”
The Thai ace says she is quite excited to take on her Taiwanese arch-rival on home soil for the first time, with all of their previous 20 encounters having been played overseas. Ratchanok leads 11-9 in the head-to-heads.
“I’m looking forward to playing her in front of the home fans. It will be a great opportunity for them to see all the big stars in actions here,” she added.
Ratchanok’s teammates in the singles are Thai No 2 Nitchaon Jindapol (world No 11), Thai No 3 Busanan Ongbumrungphan (world No 24) and Thai number 4 Pornpawee Chochuwong (world No 25).
In the women’s doubles, the top-ranked Thai pair of Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Prajongjai (world-ranked eight) are backed up by Thai No 2 Chayanit Chaladchalam and Phathaimas Muenwong, plus Thai No 3 Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Puttita Supajirakul.
In the men’s Thomas Cup, Thailand has been drawn into a tough B group with 13-time champions Indonesia, powerful South Korea and Canada.
“As the men’s team is in a very tough group, we hope they can finish second and reach the last eight. We hope they will surprise us,” said BAT president Khun Ying Patama Leesawadtrakul.
Thai No 1 Khosit Phetpradab (world No 25) will spearhead the men’s singles, along with Thai No 2 Suppanyu Avihingsanon, (world no 27), Thai No 3 Kantaphon Wangcharoen (world No 36) and Thai No 4 Pannawit Thongnuam (world No 49).
In the men’s doubles the top-ranked Thai pairing of Tinn Isriyanet and Kittisak Namdash (world No 24) are supported by Thai No 2 Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Kittinupong Kerden plus Thai No 3 Nipitphon Phuangphupet and Tanupat Viriyangkura.
“It would have been tough whichever group we had been placed in,” said Khosit, who comes from Chiang Mai. “As the No 1 player, I’m a bit nervous as I need to win every point for the team.”
Thailand’s best result in the Thomas Cup was reaching the final in 1961 while the women’s best Uber Cup effort was making the semi-finals in 2012.