Japan’s Riko Gunji followed in the footsteps of her idol Akane Yamaguchi whom she closely resembles, finishing atop the podium in women’s singles.
Popov’s sharp left-handed attack had cut through opponents on his way to the final, but against Vitidsarn the match unfolded differently. The Thai was solid enough in defence to frustrate the Frenchman; displaying fine courtcraft, he kept Popov scampering from corner to corner. The left-hander just didn’t get the openings he needed, and Vitidsarn was a picture of calm as he coolly nailed his winners.
There was no extravagant celebration at the end of the 21-8 21-11 rout, even as he’d achieved a milestone. With his hat-trick of titles, he equalled the record of women’s singles compatriot Ratchanok Intanon and China’s Chen Qing Chen.
“I’m very honoured to match Ratchanok’s record in the juniors, but she is able to do well at the senior level too,” said Vitidsarn. “This is my last year in the juniors and there was a lot of pressure on me. I had some good phases in the match and some not-so-good ones, but I was able to control it overall. I just followed my own style. This is another step up for me.”
The vanquished Popov admitted he’d been outplayed by Vitidsarn: “He was better than me today. For me the goal was to get a medal; I didn’t expect to reach the final and I’m happy I did that. I hope to win more medals for France.”
Gunji’s speed and fierce forehands through wicked angles destroyed second seed Zhou Meng’s challenge, although the Chinese did well to take the second game after falling behind in the first. After the interval in the third there was no stopping Gunji, and Zhou was often a forlorn figure in the middle of the court, unable to come to terms with her quick-moving, hard-hitting opponent.
“It was basically about keeping the attack,” said Gunji. “I didn’t attack a lot in the second game and that’s why I lost my way, but then I regained the attack in the last game and was able to dominate her. I’m very excited with my victory!”