Top-ranked Tai Tzu-ying won a crucial match against former world champion Ratchanok Intanon on Friday, ensuring the Taiwanese star a place in the semi-finals of badminton’s World Tour Finals in Bangkok.

The two players – both celebrated for their graceful style of play – had already met on court last week, with Tai winning a gruelling three-set game. Deja vu set in Friday as they faced off again, this time with a bruising first 23-25 set that had both players scrambling for game point before Ratchanok pulled through. But she lost steam, and Tai easily trounced her 21-12, 21-9, in a game that lasted just shy of an hour.

“I tried to calm myself (during the first set), but I made two mistakes in a row and lost the game,” said Tai. “After that though my opponent made more mistakes.”

Tai will be playing against South Korean teen prodigy An Se-young in the semi-finals.

Earlier in the day, An pushed to victory in a tough game against former world champion Carolina Marin – who she had lost to in two previous meetings.

“I’m really happy as I have shed a lot of tears here,” said the emotional 18-year-old, who was voted Most Promising Player in 2019.

Scoring an early first-set win, An came back after losing the second match to a 21-16, 14-21, 21-19 victory. She credited it to being able to anticipate her more experienced opponent’s counters after losing to Marin the past two weeks.

“There are many things I have learned from Marin and I adapted to those things as I was playing the match,” she said.

Marin – who is gunning for a hat-trick of titles after winning the last two tournaments – will still move on to the semi-finals to play against Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong.

In the men’s singles, Hong Kong player Angus Ng Ka Long, ranked eighth in the world, scored a win in his final round-robin stage against Srikanth Kidambi.

Because of his losses on the previous two days, Ng will not move on to the semi-finals, but the 26-year-old still played like his life depended on the 12-21, 21-18, 21-19 win. “Although I won’t make it to the semi-finals, I still kept pushing myself,” he said.

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The post-games draw for Saturday’s men’s singles semi-finals avoided pitting compatriots against each other.

Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen, who won back-to-back titles, will play against second-ranked Chou Tien-chen from Taiwan, while fellow Dane Anders Antonsen will be up against Wang Tzu-wei.

The top eight players in all singles and doubles disciplines are contesting this week’s tournament, but China and Japan are absent because of coronavirus problems.

Despite the strict biosecurity arrangements, four people inside the tournament “bubble” have tested positive, including two players who were forced to withdraw.