Antonsen and Tai claim badminton World Tour Finals titles

·3-min read

Top-ranked Tai Tzu-ying won a dramatic cliffhanger women's badminton World Tour Final in Bangkok Sunday, blocking reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin's bid for a hat-trick of titles in three weeks.

The all Danish men's singles final was equally nail biting as Anders Antonsen denied Viktor Axelsen a third tournament win.

Marin beat the Taiwanese 26-year-old two weeks in a row during the previous Thailand Open tournament finals.

The Spaniard had a shaky start Sunday as Tai exploited holes in her defence early, but Marin mounted a successful comeback in the later stages winning the opener 21-14.

Marin was loud and fiesty in her verbal celebrations, but a visibly annoyed Tai soon found her own voice.

In the second game Tai dominated early and dictated a commanding pace, eventually triumphing 21-8.

The decider was filled with fast and furious rallies -- both players yo-yoed up and down the scoreboard -- but two late spectacular drop shots were critical in sealing Tai's victory 21-19.

"Before this match today I kept telling myself that I had to play patiently. In the previous matches, all my mistakes were caused (by) my own impatience," Tai said.

Marin was proud of her campaign in Bangkok.

"I'm not really happy but I think it was really three good weeks for me. Two titles and a final, it's very difficult for any player," Marin said.

Thailand has hosted three consecutive badminton tournaments in a bio-secure coronavirus bubble, without spectators, to guard against the pandemic -- although there were four positive cases, including two players.

Axelsen, ranked fourth, couldn't control his nerves -- losing the first game 16-21 -- his body language showing immense frustration as errors piled up and shots landed wide.

He managed to regroup to win the second game 21-5.

But in the decider Antonsen had all the right answers, triumphing 21-17 to claim the game and the hour-long match against an increasingly ruffled Axelsen.

"In the second game I was saving up energy for the third game because I knew I didn't have the resources. I had to be very calculated. I decided it would be smarter to go for the third game," Antonsen said.

Antonsen is the only man to beat Axelsen in more than a year.

"I think mentally I've used up a lot of energy. Anders played really well and I want to congratulate him," Axelsen said.

The women's doubles was an all-Korean showdown with fourth-ranked Lee So-hee and Shin Seung-chan pushing sixth-ranked Kim So-yeong and Kong Hee-yong to three games over 92 minutes.

Lee and Shin lost the first game 15-21 before scrapping through to claim the second 26-24.

They had momentum early in the third game and were able to hold off a late resurgence from their opponents to win the decider 21-19.

In the men's doubles, seventh-ranked Lee Yang and Wang Chi-Lin of Taiwan won their third title in three weeks.

They beat Indonesia's Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan 21-17, 23-21 in 37 minutes.

Lee admitted the pair were nervous coming into the finals.

"We were playing our idols. I thought: 'oh my god, oh my god.' Three titles is incredible," he said.

In the mixed doubles, Thailand's third seeds Sapsiree Taerattanachai and Dechapol Puavaranukroh became local heroes claiming a trio of titles in three weeks.

They beat sixth-ranked South Koreans Seo Seung-jae and Chae Yoo-jung 21-18, 8-21, 21-8.