The New Zealander, at 19 the youngest women’s singles titlist since Australian Verdet Kessler (also 19) in 2014, triumphed 24-22 18-21 21-12 in 67 minutes.
It was the day’s longest match, with three other finals decided in less than 30 minutes each.
“I probably got too comfortable and started rushing my shots,” Li told Badminton Oceania about squandering six match points in the first game.
“I was lucky I could reset (when) she was getting momentum. (There on) I just had to focus on one point at a time. I didn’t want to think too far ahead,” added the first women’s singles winner from New Zealand in 11 years.
On her celebrations, the 2019 Oceania junior champion said: “Some ice-cream tonight … Duck Island ice-cream. At least my bank account will look a little better.”
New Zealand also aced the men’s singles event, leaving Australia to sweep doubles.
“We play each other all the time. It does get a little bit same-same, but we try and push each other. I wanted to win, it doesn’t change where I’m at. I always fight when I play,” said Manota.
The tournament continues with the mixed team event tomorrow.