They were among the standout competitors at the recent BWF World Junior Championships 2022. Thailand will be enthused by the emergence of ‘EQ’ Panitchaphon Teeraratsakul and ‘Pink’ Pitchamon Opatniputh, who showcased their sparkling skills in Santander.
There was attention on the duo even before they arrived at the World Juniors. Teeraratsakul, 18, had made his Thomas Cup debut on home turf and featured in an exciting fifth match against Singapore, which he pulled off to win the tie for his country.
Opatniputh, just 15, already had three senior titles – the Swedish Open, Denmark Masters and the Bahrain International – an impressive accomplishment for one so young.
What’s most striking is that both Teeraratsakul and Opatniputh bank on their skill, being unafraid to express themselves on court. Teeraratsakul, for instance, left one opponent admiring his “naughty” strokes.
Having lost in the Round of 16, his Malaysian opponent Eogene Ewe lavished praise on him: “His hand skill is very nice, his smash is powerful. His double motion, net shots… his skills are beautiful. Every time I went one way, the shuttle would go another way. His hand is very naughty. Because he’s feeling good, he’s very confident.”
A wiry left-hander, Teeraratsakul has the stomach for a fight. One of the most memorable contests of the World Juniors Mixed Team Championships was the Korea-Thailand Group E tie, in which he beat Kim Byung Jae in a topsy-turvy contest in 72 minutes. The following week he made the semifinals of the individual event.
Opatniputh, who couldn’t prepare for the World Juniors due to the death of her grandfather, gave no excuses after she ran into the eventual winner, Tomoka Miyazaki, in the quarterfinals.
Former national coach Udom Luangpetcharapon, currently with Bangthongyord Badminton Club, has high expectations of the two.
“Panitchaphon has good fighting spirit, never gives up. He’s clever, attacks well and has good skills. Maybe he needs to improve on some details.
“Pink is still young and not physically strong yet, she needs time to build up. She’s a smart player, beautiful movement and shots. She quite tall and has a good physique. Both of them are strong mentally; they have a good future as top players.”
Already well known for their looks and talent, Opatniputh and Teeraratsakul will have to navigate the tricky waters of social media stardom. Both say they are aware of its pitfalls.
“I don’t want to think about my social media popularity; I want to focus on badminton,” Opatniputh says. “I want to play on the World Tour, and I want to get into the top 10 rankings.”