Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara said her triumph over a determined Ratchanok Intanon in Sunday’s Hong Kong Open final is a massive confidence boost ahead of the Tokyo Olympics.
Both players were hungry for the win, drawing level 13 times in the second game before the sixth-ranked Okuhara beat the Thai, a former world champion, 21-19, 24-22 in 64 minutes.
“This match is very important for me,” she said afterwards.
Okuhara went on to say that she would spend the next year working to secure her place at next year’s Olympics alongside world number two Akane Yamaguchi, who Intanon beat in three games in the quarter-finals.
“I and Akane will get a gold medal,” she said. “Of course.”
Sunday was Okuhara’s last game of the tournament before next month’s World Tour finals in China.
Intanon had won four of their previous five match-ups and the respect between the players was palpable, with Okuhara sharing a long embrace in her opponent’s court at the end of play.
“I feel like my performance at the moment is quite good,” Intanon told reporters.
“It was a tough game for me. It’s not easy to beat her but I tried my best.
“She is a strong woman, she always plays long rallies and I tried to hold her and fight to the end.”
In the women’s doubles, top-ranked Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota beat Korean challengers Lee So-hee and Shin Seung-chan 21-18, 21-17.
Lee and Shin both fell on the court to save a long second-game rally to level at 15-all before conceding the next five points.
The Japanese duo are now 2-0 against Lee and Shin after their two-game victory in the Asian Games quarter-finals.