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Intanon on Song at SKYCITY New Zealand Badminton Open

Intanon on song at the SKYCITY New Zealand Badminton Open

Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon has lived up to her top billing, in her opening match of the women’s singles at the SKYCITY New Zealand Badminton Open at the North Shore Events Centre in Auckland.

The world number nine is safely through to the second round, after a 21-17, 21-13 victory over Indonesia’s Jesica Muljati.

Intanon is the tournament’s star turn, evident from the life-size cardboard cutout elcoming fans at the front door of the NSEC, and the well-attended autograph session after her match.

The 22-year-old former world number one remains modest despite all the extra attention.

“I feel really lucky to have such a warm welcome and feel like a really special guest for the tournament,” she said.

Intanon is well aware many of the players will be targeting her, as the tournament’s top seed and is not surprised at how well Muljati played in their first round encounter.

“My competition is very well prepared and think that if I keep on my form I can win any game.”

That confidence will play a key role, as she prepares for the World Championships in Edinburgh at the end of the month.

The SKYCITY New Zealand Badminton Open is a key part of her preparation.

“I need to do my best and try hard at every game and keep practicing, so I can win at the world championships,” she said.

tanon’s main title rival Fitriani Fitriani had earlier fired a warning shot, racking up a commanding win in round one.

The second seeded Indonesian ensured there was no repeat of the shock first round defeat suffered by men’s second seed Ajay Jayaram yesterday, cruising into the round of 16 with a 21-14, 21- 4 win over Australian Tiffany Ho.

Meanwhile, top seed Tzu Wei Wang remains in the title hunt in the men’s singles, but he was made to work for his place in the last 16.

The world number 12 dug deep to edge past India’s Pratul Joshi 21-13, 24-22.

A relieved Wang admits to feeling a bit of pressure.

“This is my first time being a 1st seed at an international competition, I feel a bit different so I need to adjust myself,” he said.

“Most likely it was luck that I won the last point because I was really eager to win the match, but I can normally play more skillful on the last shot.”

It hasn’t been all plain sailing for the top title contenders though, with another seed coming a-cropper on day two.

Hong Kong’s Cheuk Yiu Lee has sent third seeded Indonesian Jonatan Christie packing, winning 21-17, 21-13.

A thrilled Lee’s crediting self-belief as a key role in the upset.

“The seeding is just for a ranking (and) a higher ranking doesn't mean he is stronger - if you are lower you can win against a top seed,” he said.

And the Barfoot and Thompson match of the day produced an upset of sorts in the mixed doubles, with Peng Soon Chan and Yee See Cheah (Malaysia) beating second seeds Hafiz Faizal and Shela Devi Aulia (Indonesia) 21-10, 21-19.

Chan is the defending champion and picked up a silver medal in the event at the Rio Olympics, but with his long-standing playing partner currently out with a shoulder injury, he has formed a new partnership with Cheah.

Play gets underway at 2pm on Thursday, featuring the round of 16 in the men’s and women’s singles, the men’s and women’s doubles and the mixed doubles.


ENDS


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