With her third defeat of her senior compatriot Ratchanok Intanon earlier this year in four international matches, Lalinrat Chaiwan had caused some ripples. Could she follow in the footsteps of her incomparable senior?
Yet, Chaiwan couldn’t carry on from that first round win at the All England, and fell to another early exit. Apart from the French Open 2022, where she made the quarterfinals, Chaiwan has had an uneventful run over the last year. The one player she has consistently got the better of has been Intanon. Playing a style no doubt influenced by Intanon – touch, deception, elegant strokeplay – Chaiwan hoped she could continue to progress.
“Now my ranking is 31, I want to get into the top 15 first,” the 22-year-old said.
“I feel happy when I beat Ratchanok because she’s been the leading player for Thailand. I train hard. I train with her at the same club. I know her style and she knows mine, we play together every day.”
Chaiwan also has a good record against the world No.10, Pornpawee Chochuwong, having won two matches in four. However, it’s against the other top 10 players that she hasn’t made much headway.
She seeks to draw inspiration from the player she came up the ranks with, Kunlavut Vitidsarn, who too trains at Banthongyord. Having excelled at the junior level, Vitidsarn made a quick transition to the seniors, winning World Championships silver last year and his first Super 750 title in India, where he beat world No.1 Viktor Axelsen.
“He (Kunlavut) has a very good mindset. He learns from every match and he doesn’t think too much,” said Chaiwan.
“He’s able to control himself. He tells me he’s fighting for me, he says I can do it too. I learn from watching him play. He helps me learn as well.”
While Chaiwan is still seeking the ingredients that will take her to the top, Thai fans can take heart from the health of their country’s women’s singles. Intanon is possibly in the evening of her career, but with four others in the top 30, and promising players who subscribe to the same brand of badminton as she does – Chaiwan is one, ‘Pink’ Pitchamon Opatniputh is another – Thailand do have much to look forward to in this category.