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Ratchanok Intanon (Thai: รัชนก อินทนนท์, RTGS: Ratchanok Inthanon, pronounced [rát.t͡ɕʰā.nók ʔīn.tʰā.nōn]; born 5 February 1995) is a Thai badminton player who became the first Thai to become No.1 in women’s singles. She is known for her relaxed hitting motion and light footwork which has been described as ‘balletic’ by commentators such as Gillian Clark. She became world champion in women’s singles in 2013.
Ratchanok won her first individual International title in 2009, while she was only 14, by winning the Vietnam International Challenge. She made history by becoming the youngest-ever champion at the BWF World Junior Championships at 14 when she triumphed in Malaysia. She also reached SEA Games 2009 Badminton WS final but lost to her compatriot Salakjit Ponsana.
In 2010, at the age of 15, she successfully defended her title at the World Junior Championships in Mexico. She won two back-to-back Grand Prix tournaments by winning Vietnam Open Grand Prix and Indonesia Open Grand Prix Gold. In 2010 Guangzhou Asian Games, she won a silver medal as a member of the women’s team. In the final, she lost to Wang Xin, at that time world number 1, 22-20 17-21 14-21.
In 2011, she became the most successful player ever in individual events at the BWF World Junior Championships, winning the women’s singles title for the third straight time in Taiwan. She won Syed Modi International and was also a member of the women’s team that defeated Indonesia in the final at the 2011 Southeast Asian Games. At the BWF World Championships, she was the only player to take a game off of the eventual champion, Wang Yihan.
In 2012, Ratchanok, at 16 years of age, was awarded the Best Female Athlete Award in Thailand after winning the world junior title for three successive years. Ratchanok’s biggest goal is to win the Olympic gold medal. However, at 2012 London Olympics quarter-final match with Wang Xin, despite leading 21–17 and 16-9 in the second game, she failed to close the match and eventually lost 21–17, 18–21, 14–21. She reached the finals of the SCG Thailand Open 2012 but lost to Saina Nehwal 19–21 21–15 21–10 in the finals. She entered the finals of a Super Series tournament for the first time in 2012 China Open Super Series Premier but lost to Li Xuerui 12-21, 9-21. She qualified for the Super Series Finals and lost in the semi-finals. She finished the year as world number 9.
2013 was one of Ratchanok’s golden years. She reached the finals of the 2013 All England Open Badminton Championships, losing to Tine Rasmussen 14–21, 21–16, 10–21. Despite her loss, she is still the youngest singles finalist ever at the All England tournament. She won her first Superseries tournament by beating Juliane Schenk 22-20, 21-14 in the Yonex Sunrise India Open 2013 to become the youngest-ever Superseries winner, with the age of 18 years, 2 months and 22 days (She held this record for 6 months until Akane Yamaguchi won the 2013 Japan Open at the age of 16). She again reached the finals of the SCG Thailand Open 2013. This time she won the title, beating Busanan Ongbumrungpan 20-22, 21-19, 21-13 to become the first Thai ever to win the women’s singles title at the Thailand Open since it was first held in 1984.
After the Thailand Open, she decided to withdraw from both the Indonesia Open SSP and Singapore Open SS to recover from her foot injury and prepare for the BWF World Championships. In August, Ratchanok won the BWF World Championships, beating world number 1 and Olympic gold medallist Li Xuerui 22-20 18-21 21-14 in the final. She is the first-ever Thai player to be the World Champion. At the age of 18, she is also the youngest singles World Champion ever. She became the World Champion while still being eligible to play in the 2013 BWF Junior World Championships in Bangkok. After World Championships, she injured her back which forced her to withdraw from another two super series events, Japan Open and China Master. Ratchanok didn’t qualify for Super Series Final in Malaysia and finished 2013 as the World number 3. She was awarded “2013 Best Females Athletes Award” from Thailand Sports Authority.
Ratchanok reached the final of the Korea Open for the first time but lost to Wang Yihan 13-21, 19-21. Her head-to-head statistics with Wang Yihan has been increased to 0-8. She was awarded “Best Asian Sporting Icon” by Fox Sports Asia, based on voting from internet fans from its website. She reached the semi-finals of the All England 2014 to meet with Li Xuerui for the first time after beating her in World Championships of 2013. However, this time she lost to Li Xuerui in 2 sets. After the All England tournament, Ratchanok failed to pass the first round in both the 2014 Asian Championship and Japan Open. She reached the finals of the Indonesia Open but again lost to Li Xuerui 13-21, 13-21. After the Indonesia Open, Ratchanok did not reach any finals for the rest of the year. She failed to defend her World Champion title by losing in the second round. She qualified for Super Series Final in Dubai but failed to pass the round-robin. She finished the 2014 year as World number 6.
At the age of 20, Ratchanok made a comeback by reaching the final of the India Open for the second time but lost to her opponent, Saina Nehwal, 16-21, 14-21. However, in the quarter-finals of the All England Championships while playing Sun Yu, while 13-19 down in the decider, Ratchanok was forced to retire from cramp. Many people were skeptical about her fitness levels. A month later, she created history as the first Thai singles player to be crowned Asia Championship champion by defeating Li Xuerui in the final match 20-22, 23-21, 21-12 in China.14] It was the first time that Ratchanok had beaten Li Xuerui since the final of the 2013 World Championships. In June, she won her first Super Series Premier title by beating Yui Hashimoto of Japan in straight games, 21-11, 21-10, at the Indonesia Open. However, at the BWF World Championships, she had to retire from court 8-5 up in the decider against Lindaweni Fanetri in the last 16 stage from cramp yet again. She won a gold medal with Thailand Women’s team at the 2015 Southeast Asian Games in Singapore. After the Indonesia Open, she didn’t reach the final of any tournaments but earned enough points to qualify for the Dubai Super Series Final tournament. She lost to Wang Yihan in the semi-final, which brought their head-to-head statistics to 0-12. She finished the 2015 season at world number 7.
Ratchanok won Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters 2016, a second Grand Prix Gold tournament in Thailand, by beating Sun Yu of China in the Final 21-19, 18-21, 21-17. She again won Indian Open Super Series for the second time by beating Li Xue Rui in the Final 21-17, 21-18. In Malaysia Super Series Premier the week after, Ratchanok finally won the maiden match over Wang Yihan by beating her in Semi-Final 21-11, 21-19. Their head-to-head statistics improved from 0-12 to be 1-12. In the final, she beat Tai Tzu-ying 21-14, 21-15 to earn the Malaysia Open title for the first time. It was Ratchanok’s first time to win two consecutive Superseries tournaments. Ratchanok then became the first singles player to win 3 Superseries in 3 consecutive weeks by winning the Singapore Super Series, defeating Sun Yu in the final. By winning 3 Superseries in a row, Ratchanok also rose to the No.1 spot in the world rankings, becoming the first Thai to achieve this feat. Intanon qualified for the 2016 Summer Olympics and is the Thai flag bearer. At the Olympics she failed to pass the Round of 16, losing out to the Japanese rising star, Akane Yamaguchi, in a close two game match 19-21, 16-21. Ratchanok then withdrew from the Thailand Open, and she lost in the quarter-finals and the second round of the Japan Open and Korea Open respectively. Following that, she withdrew from the Denmark Open as well as the French Open due to a knee injury that she picked up at the Rio Olympics. After that, she played a couple of shots in China before retiring, and then she withdrew from the Hong Kong Open due to the same injury, knowing that she would have secured enough points to qualify for the Super Series Finals. Ratchanok had the goal of making it into the semi-finals of the Superseries Finals but lost 21-19 21-12 to Sung Ji Hyun, 21-13 21-14 to Tai Tzu Ying, and 21-19 11-10, retiring injured against He Bingjiao. She finished 2016 at a world ranking of 5.
Ratchanok withdrew from her home event, the Thailand Masters, due to a knee injury. Following that, she played in her first tournament of 2017 in March, the Yonex All England Open. She made her way to the quarter-finals, where she had to face off against world no. 2, Carolina Marin. Intanon won 22-20, 13-21, 21-18. She was 11-18 down in the rubber set but won 10 straight points to close out the match. In the semis, she faced Akane Yamaguchi, who leads the head to heads 6-5. Intanon won 22-20, 21-16 in 48 minutes of play to secure herself a spot in the Final against Tai Tzu Ying. Tai beat Intanon 16-21, 20-22 to win. Ratchanok later in the year took the SCG Thailand Open beating compatriot Busanan Ongbumrungphan in the final, 21-18, 12-21, 21-16. She also won the Skycity New Zealand Open beating Saena Kawakami in the final 21-14, 16-21, 21-15. She participated in the Denmark Open Premier Series where she beat Sung Ji Hyun and Tai Tzu Ying. Ratchanok met Akane Yamaguchi in the final, and beat her in a thrilling 3 game match with 21-19 in the rubber set, to win the title. She said that she dedicated the title to Thailand’s king, Bhumibol Adulyadej, who died the year before.
At the beginning of the year, Ratchanok participated in and won the Malaysia Masters Super 500 tournament, beating Akane Yamaguchi in the semi-finals, and Tai Tzu Ying in the finals, with 24-22 in the third set. She then proceeded to reach the semi-finals of both the Indonesia Masters Super 500 and the India Open Super 500, losing out to Saina Nehwal and Pusarla V. Sindhu respectively. At the Asian Games, Ratchanok made it to the quarter-final stage before losing out to Saina Nehwal. She then proceeded to make it to the finals of the Yonex Sunrise Hong Kong Open, losing to Nozomi Okuhara 19-21 22-24. She qualified for the HSBC World Tour Finals, where she lost in the semi-finals to Pusarla V. Sindhu. She finished the year at world no. 8.
Ratchanok participated in the Malaysia Masters Super 500, hoping to defend her title. She won her matches in straight sets, including beating Tai Tzu Ying, to set up a final against Carolina Marin. Ratchanok beat Marin 21-9 22-20 to successfully defend her title. At the German Open Super 300, Ratchanok beat Nozomi Okuhara in the Semi-Finals, but lost to Akane Yamaguchi in 3 games, losing 23-25 in the deciding game. After that in form, Ratchanok went to England for All England Open but lost in the first round to player she never lost before Chen Xiaoxin of China in 3 rubber games. This was her second consecutive 1st round exit at All England open.
Ratchanok Intanon then won her 3rd Indian Open title in 2019 Indian Open by beating He Bingjiao of China in two straight games 21-15,21-14. This was Ratchanok’s first-ever victory over the left-handed Chinese He Bingjiao in their 5 encounters.
Records currently held
- Youngest ever singles champion of BWF World Championships (2013, age of 18 years 6 months and 6 days)
- Youngest ever champion of the BWF World Junior Championships (2009, age of 14)
- First ever 3-time champion in a single discipline of the BWF World Junior Championships (2009, 2010, 2011)
- Youngest ever singles finalist of the All England Open Badminton Championships (2013, age of 18)
- First ever singles player to win 3 Superseries titles in 3 consecutive weeks
- First ever Thai badminton player ranked World #1
Honors and Awards
Ratchanok Intanon won many awards and honors in recognition of her achievements, below are some of the international prestigious awards she had won so far.
BWF World Championships
Southeast Asian Games
BWF World Junior Championships
Asian Junior Championships
BWF World Tour (3 titles, 4 runners-up)
The BWF World Tour, announced on 19 March 2017 and implemented in 2018, is a series of elite badminton tournaments, sanctioned by Badminton World Federation (BWF). The BWF World Tour are divided into six levels, namely World Tour Finals, Super 1000, Super 750, Super 500, Super 300 (part of the HSBC World Tour), and the BWF Tour Super 100.
BWF Superseries (6 titles, 6 runners-up)
The BWF Superseries, launched on 14 December 2006 and implemented in 2007, is a series of elite badminton tournaments, sanctioned by Badminton World Federation (BWF). BWF Superseries has two levels: Superseries and Superseries Premier. A season of Superseries features twelve tournaments around the world, which introduced since 2011, with successful players invited to the Superseries Finals held at the year end.
BWF Grand Prix (7 titles, 3 runners-up)
The BWF Grand Prix has two levels, the BWF Grand Prix and Grand Prix Gold. It is a series of badminton tournaments sanctioned by the Badminton World Federation (BWF) since 2007.
BWF International Challenge/Series (2 titles, 4 runners-up)
Ratchanok is the daughter of Winutchai Intanon and Kumpan Suvarsara. She also has a brother. Ratchanok was born in Yasothon Province in the northeast of Thailand, but moved at the age of three months with her parents, who worked at the Banthongyord sweets factory in Bang Khae District of Bangkok. She is of Chinese descent. As a child, Ratchanok would run around the factory floor. Factory owner Kamala Thongkorn, worried that she would be burned by boiling water and hot sugar, allowed Ratchanok to play at the factory’s badminton courts. She started playing when she was six years old, and won her first championship at the age of seven.
Ratchanok used her prize money and endorsement fees aid her parents and brother. Her father opened a food shop with her help. “I wanted to be a national player like my older friends and play for the country, because that was the only way I could help my parents to improve our status and leave poverty”, she said.
Ratchanok trains at the Banthongyord Badminton School. Her coach is Patapol Ngernsrisuk, former Olympian and son of Kamala Thongkorn.
Record against selected opponents
Record against Super Series finalists, World Championships semifinalists and Olympic quarterfinalists (as of 20 December 2018):