Soniaa’s Olympic debut ends in tatters

TOKYO – National women’s singles ace Soniia Cheah Su Ya gave it everything she had against world number six Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand, but it still wasn’t enough to prevent her from making an early exit from the Tokyo Olympics today.

Soniia, 28, who received a walkover from Hungary’s Laura Sarosi in her first Group N match on Tuesday (July 27), knew she had to beat Ratchanok to advance to the quarter-finals but she found the Thai a tough nut to crack.

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Despite winning the opening game, Soniia, who is making her Olympic debut, succumbed 21-19, 18-21, 10-21 in 61 minutes at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza here.

With the win, 2013 world champion Ratchanok has now beaten world number 35 Soniia five times since 2017.

Soniia, thus, becomes the third representative from the national badminton camp to miss out on the quarter-finals in the Tokyo Olympics after the mixed doubles and women’s doubles pairs had also failed to get past the group stage.

This was also Soniia’s fifth defeat from five outings on the international arena this season.

Meanwhile, national men’s singles ace Lee Zii Jia will resume his medal pursuit as he seeks to qualify for the quarter-finals when he takes on Frenchman Brice Leverdez in a must-win final Group M match at 8.40 pm local time (7.40 Malaysian time) today.

Speaking to reporters after the match, Soniia said that initially she had everything under control and managed to play her own game to win the first set before getting off to a bad start in the second due to the wind direction.

She said it affected her play in the beginning which saw her giving her opponent so many easy points before finally getting used to the court, but it was too late as Intanon managed to wrap up the set 21-18.

“At the end at the second set, Ratchanok (Intanon) had a few lucky shots and she managed to turn around the game and then regained her confidence in the third set and her momentum came back,” she said.