Ratchanok Intanon rallied from the verge of defeat to win the Denmark Open title – and said she had been inspired by her determination to produce her top form in honour of His Majesty the late King Bhumibol Adulyadej.
Ratchanok was from two points away from losing but fought back to upset defending champion Akane Yamaguchi of Japan 14-21 21-15 21-19.
The world No 9 was trailing her arch-rival 19-16 in the decisive game but summoned all of her well-crafted shots and ran non-stop to reel off five straight points and wrap up a remarkable victory in a marathon match that featured several masterful defence shots from both players.
As soon as the Japanese missed her final shot, the 22-year-old Thai sat on the floor and tearfully performed a Thai wai to honour the late King, to whom she dedicated her first Super Series in 18 months.
“I would like to dedicate this win to the king, who passed away,” Ratchanok said in an on-court interview.
“I didn’t think I could win. I had to do my best, to show my best in order to win. This is a tough time for Thailand,” said the emotional Ratchanok, who had knocked out world No 1 Tai Tzu Ying of Taiwan in the semi-finals on the way to securing her first Super Series Premier title since the All England in March.
The win marked her sixth Super Series title and her third trophy this year following the Thailand Open and New Zealand Open.
She is also the second Thai to win in Denmark after Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk won the men’s singles 12 months ago.
The former world No 1 later added: “My opponent started so well but I tried not to give her easy points. This was an important month for Thai people.
“So I was willing to do my best for His Majesty (the late King) and King Rama X as well. I was inspired to produce a great result, so I tried to fight my way back to win.”
Ratchanok also pointed out that a saying from the late King about Thai people being second to none is always in her thoughts and she encouraged fellow athletes to hold on to it.
“I was thinking of the late King’s saying that ‘no matter what your physical condition is, you can be a top player in the world’.
“So Thai athletes shouldn’t give up or hold ourselves back by thinking that we have a physical disadvantage. If we fight with our hearts, we can conquer all,’ she said, thanking fans for always believing in her.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Prayut Chan-o-cha complimented Ratchanok and Kunlavut Vitidsarn, who earlier on Sunday had become became the first Thai in history to win the World Junior Championships boys’ singles title.
Prayut said they had performed to the best of their abilities and made their fellow Thais proud, according to Government spokesman Sansern Kaewkamnerd.
“The prime minister is glad to see that Thai athletes take inspiration from His Majesty the late King Bhumibol to give it a fight no matter how tough the situation is,” Sansern said.
“Ratchanok was once the world No 1 and has kept winning tournaments, while Kunlavut is a talented player who is following in her footsteps. Both are good examples of Thai athletes and carry the hopes of the country.”