Top Thai shuttler Ratchanok Intanon pocketed her second India Open Superseries title with a straight games victory over Olympic champion Li Xuerui in the the women's singles final at the Siri Fort Sports Complex in New Delhi on Sunday evening. (Read more badminton stories here)
In a clash between two former champions, it was Ratchanok who emerged victorious with a 21-17, 21-18 scoreline in a matching lasting 42 minutes. It was her fourth win over the former World No.1 Chinese in 11 meetings. Li had won the India Open in 2012.
Japan's Kento Momota also won his inaugural India Open title after seeing off Denmark's Viktor Axelsen 21-15, 21-18 and sprawled on the court after hitting a powerful smash which earned him the title. It was Momota's fourth Superseries title.
Ratchanok, who lost to Saina Nehwal in the final here last year, said: "Li has good skills, she is a very attacking player. I had to prepare well for this match. Idea was not to make mistakes. The shuttle was very fast today, so I played it like a doubles match. My concentration was good. I was more focused. I kept telling myself that it is one more point and I should not commit errors.
"I will have to improve my game. I was okay today. You have to keep improving since all the players in top-8 can beat anybody. From now on, there are three more events left before Olympics qualification. I will just try to give my best, no matter if I become a champion or not at the Rio Games."
After taking his head-to-head record against Axelsen to 6-1, men's singles winner Momota said: "My experience in other Superseries finals helped me. I was able to execute my plans well today. This win will put me in the good frame of mind for the Olympics."
Momota won the BWF Superseries Masters Finals, Indonesia Open and Singapore Open last year.
Three years ago Ratchanok had burst into the international scene when she had reached the finals of the All England Open and won her first Superseries title in New Delhi defeating Germany's Juliane Schenk. She made it a golden year, becoming the youngest singles player ever to win the World Championship.
It was Li whom she had beaten in that epic final. In the last three years, both of them have been part of many battles but it was always the Chinese who had the upper hand. Ratchanok's tryst with injuries - shoulder and leg - also contributed to her three consecutive loses against Li in 2014.
However, Sunday was different. Ratchanok, who had beaten Li at the Asia Championship to break her title drought last year, played with soft hands and her deceptive strokes earned her points.
Cheered by a packed vocal crowd, the Thai girl opened up a big lead early on, reaching 5-1 and kept her nose ahead at 11-9 during the first interval. Li caught up with her rival at 15-15 but Ratchanok once again managed to distance herself and pocketed the opening game when Li hit long.
Things didn't change much in the second game with Ratchanok once again zooming to a 7-1 lead. But the Thai girl erred at the nets a few times before producing a smash from the back court to move into the break at 11-6.
After the break, the fight continued but Ratchanok managed to stay ahead at 17-14. Li committed a lot of errors and hit wide to allow the Thai to make it 19-15. Another net error gave Ratchanok a healthy four match points. The Chinese saved two before Ratchanok closed a long engrossing rally with a smash.
In an all-Japanese women's doubles summit clash, Misaki Matsutomo and Ayaka Takahashi beat Naoko Fukuman and Kurumi Yonao 21-18, 21-18 in 57 minutes while Chinese pair of Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong defeated Indonesian combo of Riky Widianto and Puspita Richi Dili 21-13, 21-16 to win the mixed doubles title.
In the men's doubles, Indonesia's Gideon Markus Fernaldi and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo defeated compatriots Angga Pratama and Ricky Karanda Suwardi 21-17, 21-13 for the title.