Top-ranked Tai breezes into quarter-finals of badminton's Thailand Open

Dene-Hern Chen
·2-min read

Women's badminton world number one Tai Tzu-ying breezed into the quarter-finals of the Thailand Open on Thursday, sweeping aside South Korea's Kim Ga-eun 21-16, 21-10 in less than half an hour.

The 26-year-old's victory came as the Badminton World Federation declared the tournament safe to continue following the latest round of Covid-19 testing.

"It has been a while since the last tournament, and this is the same for everyone, so (these first few matches) are not easy," admitted Tai after overcoming the 17th-ranked Kim.

"I felt better today and had less unforced errors."

Tai is seeking back-to back titles 10 months apart after winning the All England Championship on her last tournament appearance in March before the coronavirus shutdown.

The Taiwanese player will next face Canada's eighth seed Michelle Li for a place in the semi-finals.

World number 10 Li fought back after dropping the first game against another South Korean, Sung Ji-hyun, before prevailing 15-21, 21-15, 21-14.

Former world number one Saina Nehwal did not fare as well when she went up against Thai player Busanan Ongbamrungphan, who managed to stay on top after a tight first game 21-23, 21-13, 21-16.

The Indian star was among three other athletes who tested positive Tuesday but were allowed to play because their infections were last year.

Busanan, ranked 12th in women's singles, will go up against Denmark's Mia Blichfeldt in the quarterfinals.

Her teammate Ratchanok Intanon -- arguably Thailand's greatest hope in winning the Open -- also cruised to an expected victory Thursday evening in her match against Germany's Yvonne Li 21-11, 21-15.

The Thai, who became women's world champion in 2013, will be more evenly matched in the next round against South Korea's An Se-young.

Meanwhile, Denmark's fourth seed Viktor Axelsen dominated in court against Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen 21-13, 21-17, and will go up against Indonesia's Jonatan Christie, ranked seventh in men's singles.

The Thailand Open is the first of three consecutive tournaments played in strict bio-secure conditions and behind closed doors in Bangkok, culminating in the World Tour Finals from January 27.

Egyptian mixed doubles player Adham Hatem Elgamal was withdrawn on Monday and a German coach and French staff member are under hospital observation after testing positive at badminton's restart tournament.

But the BWF Thursday cleared all other players to continue, with Thailand's badminton chief promising "to make this event a success".

dhc/dh/axn