Ratchanok Intanon in action. Photo credit: SINGSOC
Ratchanok stunned the global badminton community when she overcame the odds to capture the world title as a raw 18-year-old in Guangzhou, China, two years ago, with her maturity and improvement since then on full display in Singapore.
The 20-year-old, from Yasotorn in the rural northeast of her homeland, was first up for Thailand in the women's team event, needing just 36 minutes to ease past Malaysia's Lim Yin Fun 21-13 21-14 to set her side on course for a 3-0 victory.
"I was a little nervous at the beginning because she played like she was completely free of pressure and was able to make her shots. It forced me to really focus to control my game and not make any mistakes," she said.
"I enjoyed the match because there were so many Thai fans who came here to support us. It was nice to give them something to cheer."
Sadly for Thai fans in Singapore, Ratchanok skipped the singles event due to Chinese Badminton Super League club commitments, needing to return to China next week to line up for Qingdao Hezhan Renzhou in the playoffs.
With this year's world championships taking place in Jakarta from Aug. 10-16, Ratchanok believes she is in a great position to claim a second global title, especially since she won a Super Series event on the very same courts last week.
"I am confident I can become world champion again, I feel much more comfortable with my game now, especially when compared to 2013," she added with a smile.
"It's the same court where I just won the Super Series, so it's a good omen for me. I expect there will be a lot of Thai fans in Indonesia to cheer me on too."
Ratchanok also shrugged off fears of a possible leg injury when the heavy strapping on her right leg was questioned, instead happy to focus on where her game has developed in the last two years and what she needs to work on.
"I am just wearing the tape as a precaution, just to protect my right knee. There is no injury there," she said.
"I am a more mature player now and spend more time studying opponents than I used to. I am still in awe of some players, like current world champion Carolina Marin, but I will always try my best against anyone. I am really happy with my current form but I can still improve, so I will continue to work on my game."