Reigning Olympic champion Carolina Marin was unstoppable Saturday, clinching a spot in badminton’s World Tour Finals after quickly dispatching Thai player Pornpawee Chochuwong in a 21-13, 21-13 game.
The delayed 2020 season finale, which began Wednesday, is the third tournament behind closed doors in three weeks in Bangkok, as badminton resumes after months of coronavirus cancellations.
The Spaniard – winner of back-to-back titles for the past fortnight – is gunning for a hat-trick of victories in Sunday’s final.
Her opponent on Saturday, 13th-ranked Pornpawee, has performed better than expected in the World Tour.
She beat her personal idol, Thai star Ratchanok Intanon, as well as top-ranked Tai Tzu-ying during the round-robin stage earlier this week.
But the 23-year-old was no match against the more experienced Marin, who praised Pornpawee’s play and admitted that three straight weeks of badminton was wearing on her.
“Three tournaments in a row is tough,” said the fifth-seeded player. “But I am looking forward to tomorrow... I’m really happy to play and give my best tomorrow and enjoy one more game.”
Marin will once again be facing off against top-ranked Tai Tzu-ying, who she has beaten two weeks in a row during the previous tournaments’ finals.
Earlier in the day, the Taiwanese player trounced South Korean teen prodigy An Se-young, who admitted to feeling lethargic during the 37-minute game.
“I think my physical condition has dropped – I feel heavy and made mistakes, so I couldn’t match Tai Tzu-ying’s speed,” said An of the 21-18, 21-12 game.
As for Tai’s final meeting with Marin, she said she wanted to just “focus now and be patient” for Sunday’s final.
In the men’s games, Denmark’s Viktor Axelsen secured his spot in the final after trouncing second-ranked Chou Tien-chen, who he acknowledged gave him a run for his money in the 21-16, 21-9 match.
“Chou made it tough for me in the first game – he controlled the drift well but I managed to keep going,” said the fourth-ranked Dane, who will also be looking to win his third title in a row.
“I’m really, really happy to be in my third consecutive final here [in Bangkok]. I can’t even believe it to be honest,” Axelsen said.
It will be a all-Danish showdown on Sunday – his compatriot Anders Antonsen pushed through a difficult three-set match with Taiwanese athlete Wang Tzu-wei to a 21-18, 14-21, 21-16 win.
Missing from the tournament are players from China and Japan – 2019’s World Tour Finals champs – because of coronavirus problems.
Despite the strict biosecurity arrangements in Bangkok, four people inside the tournament “bubble” have tested positive, including two players who were forced to withdraw.
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