Vietnamese badmintonist beats Thailand's former world number one

By Duc Dong   March 1, 2024 | 10:53 pm PT
Vietnamese badmintonist beats Thailand's former world number one
Nguyen Thuy Linh celebrates when BWF announces the new world rankings that put her in the top 20 on Oct. 24, 2023. Photo courtesy of Nguyen Thuy Linh
Vietnam's top female badminton player Nguyen Thuy Linh defeated former world number one Ratchanok Intanon on Friday to enter the German Open semifinals.

The quarterfinal garnered serious attention from the Vietnamese badminton community. Thousands of supporters stayed up late to watch, the match and many encouraged her on social media.

Linh lived up to expectations and her comprehensive defeat of the tournament's third seed marks the first time she will advance to the semifinals of a Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour Super 300 event.

Intanon is one of Thai badminton’s major sources of pride.

At 29, she is currently ranked 14th in the world. She was the world junior champion for three consecutive years in 2009, 2010, and 2011.

In 2013, Intanon became the youngest to win the world title at 18 years, 6 months and 6 days old. She also won a silver medal at the 2010 Asian Games, became the Asian champion in 2015, won three SEA Games gold medals, and topped the world ranking in 2016. Previously, she defeated Linh 2-1 at the 2023 US Open.

However, Linh, world's number 20, was relentless this time around.

She scored early and quickly took a 6-2 lead in the first set. Her aggressive playing style and tricky backhands surprised Intanon, forcing her to stay back on defense.

After the break, Linh scored two consecutive points. On the other side of the net, the Thai star became increasingly flustered and often missed her strikes. This allowed Linh to maintain a safe lead of 14-7, and then 18-10, before winning 21-13.

In the second set, Linh maintained her style of play. After trailing early, she quickly regained control, scoring six consecutive points to lead 7-1 and then 9-4 before going into the mid-game interval at 11-6.

The most challenging period for Linh came when she made two errors, allowing Intanon to score three points in a row and narrow the gap to 9-11. However, the top Vietnamese player prevented any further surprises. With two powerful smashes, she halted her opponent's scoring run, widening the gap to 13-9. Despite Intanon's efforts to counter, Linh maintained her scoring streak to lead 16-11 and then 19-14 before closing the set at 21-15.

Linh shouted in joy after the 33-minute victory. In addition, by reaching the semifinals, the 26-year-old also earned significant prize money and points to improve her world and Olympic rankings.

The German Open is part of the BWF World Tour Super 300 system. After this tournament, Linh will continue to compete in France, England, Switzerland and Spain to accumulate points towards her world ranking and seek an Olympic seeding spot.

Linh's semifinal opponent is Kim Ga-eun, the second seed. Kim, currently 13th in the world, is the second-ranked female badminton player in South Korea, having won the gold medal at the Asian Games in Hangzhou, China last year. She previously defeated Linh 2-0 in the quarterfinals of the 2023 China Masters.

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