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(Photo: Badminton Photo)
Relief, euphoria and a statement from European Champions
Date: 1/17/2021 1:16 PM
Published by : Alan Raftery
The return of badminton in 2021 has found its first champions at the Thailand Open. Here is what took place on an exciting finals day. 

In the first of two Thailand Opens organised in Bangkok, it was euphoria for the two reigning European Champions. 

Marin’s mission accomplished
Along with the happiness that goes with winning a World Tour Super 1000 event, the highest level on the circuit, this one was tinged with relief for Carolina Marin. The Spaniard came into her eighth tournament in a row reaching either the semifinal or final without a title win. For the reigning Olympic Champion’s high standards, this was not good enough. 

In today’s final, against world number one Tai Tzu Ying, she also had to be aware that their encounter at the All England Open in March 2020 resulted in a win for Tai, however, today Marin was on a mission. 

Marin took an early lead of 11-6 in the opening game. Sensing her opportunity, after the interval, Marin went on an eight-point charge, taking the opening game 21-9. 

In the second game, Marin took the initiative once again, but this time there was some resistance from Tai. However, all that meant was Marin won this time with a modest 21-16 score, completing a top-level performance that has alluded her since the China Open win in 2019, where she also defeated Tai in the final. 

-I feel really happy at the moment. I don’t have too many words to say now, but I am so excited with how I played today and how I kept my focus in the game. My determination was definitely the key to the match. 

-I just wanted to say thank you to BWF and the organisers in Thailand, because thanks to them we can start playing some tournaments during this difficult time. I personally had a tough 2020, so I am happy I can recover from that and my mind is set on the Olympics and World Championships at the end of the year. 

Axelsen doubles up
Perhaps this will be a great badminton quiz question for many years to come. Which player won a World Tour Super 1000 event either side of the COVID-19 calendar lockdown. The answer is, Viktor Axelsen. 

His opponent today, Ng Ka Long representing Hong Kong China, defeated Axelsen’s All England final opponent in Chou Tien Chen on his way to the final. The 2020 Thailand Masters champion seems to enjoy playing in Thailand but faced an uphill struggle against a player he has failed to win a game against in their eight previous encounters. 

In two almost identical games, Axelsen built an early lead, when at around halfway Ng would level the score, only for Axelsen to react by kicking away to 21. The match ended at 21-14, 21-14. 

-I am obviously happy and proud. I was in a little bit of a weird situation coming into this tournament as many things have happened since I last played. Surgery on my ankle and the birth our daughter, so I have been training as hard as I could but did not really know where I was playing-wise, so I am happy that I can win this tournament because it is not easy against such good opponents. 

Thai home champion 
Like Axelsen, Praveen Jordan/ Melati Daeva Oktavianti also had a chance to double up on their All England win. However, their beaten opponents in Birmingham, Dechapol Puavaranukroh/ Sapsiree Taerattanachai, were able to take the win this time at home in Bangkok, making Thai fans very proud. 

The finals day results: 

Dechapol Puavaranukroh/ Sapsiree Taerattanachai (THA) (1) bt Praveen Jordan/ Melati Daeva Oktavianti (INA) (2) 21-3, 20-22, 21-18

Lee Yang/ Wang Chi-Lin (TPE) (6) bt Goh V Shem/ Tan Wee Kiong (MAS) 21-16, 21-23, 21-19

Greysia Polii/ Apriyani Rahayu (INA) (5) bt Jongkolphan Kititharakul/ Rawinda Prajongjai (THA) (7) 21-15, 21-12

Carolina Marin (ESP) (5) bt Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) (1) 21-9, 21-16

Viktor Axelsen (DEN) (4) bt Ng Ka Long (HKG) (7) 21-14, 21-14

For the full results, click here

From 19 January, we get to do it all again! The draws are out, take a look here
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