Taiwan's Tai tops nemesis to reach Malaysia Open semifinals

Tai Tzu-ying at last year's Asian Games.

Tai Tzu-ying at last year's Asian Games. (CNA photo)

Taiwanese badminton ace Tai Tzu-ying (戴資穎) had every reason to be worried in the quarterfinals of the 2019 Malaysia Open on Friday, facing her nemesis and seemingly on the verge of going down a game.

But the world No. 1 Taiwanese rallied to top Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand 21-19, 21-13 in 35 minutes to guarantee she will keep her top spot in the rankings and set up a semifinal showdown against China's young upstart Chen Yufei (陳雨菲), seeded third in Malaysia.

The 21-year-old Chen topped Tai in the final of the prestigious All England Open Badminton Championships 21-17, 21-17 last month.

The 24-year-old Taiwanese struggled with injuries at the end of last year, and she has tried to put them behind her by playing a curtailed schedule so far this year.

The Malaysia Open is only her third tournament of 2019, and her quarterfinal appearance against Ratchanok, who had defeated Tai in six of their previous eight meetings dating back to October 2017, gave her a good test.

Tai, in fact, found herself down 18-15 in the first game before rallying by picking up the pace of play.

With the second game tied 7-7, Tai pulled away as fatigue seemed to catch up with the Thai, who may have been feeling the effects of a 57-minute match a day earlier.

Tai is seeking her third consecutive women's singles title and 4th title overall at the Malaysia Open, which carries a total purse of US$700,000 this year.

Tai reached the quarterfinals by defeated Deng Joy Xuan (鄧旋) of Hong Kong and Busanan Ongbamrungphan of Thailand in the opening two rounds without dropping a game. (By Oscar Wu, Luke Sabatier and Emerson Lim)