Leani Ratri Oktila of Indonesia overcame fatigue and a lapse in concentration to win her first Para Badminton World Championships gold medal in the Basel 2019 women’s singles SL 4 final on Saturday.
The 2017 silver medallist beat Cheng Hefang of China 21-16, 21-16 in her fifth match of the day in all competitions to exact revenge for her defeat to the same opponent at the 2018 Asian Para Games.
“I'm really happy as I did not expect to win in straight games,” Oktila said.
The Indonesian had been ruthless en route to the final, dispatching four of her five singles opponents in under 20 minutes as she tried to lighten the load of a gruelling schedule.
“Physically, it’s harder in training than in the real match, but during the match it is harder mentally,” the 28-year-old said.
Oktila’s mental strength was tested to the limit in the second game as Cheng clawed back a five-point deficit after her opponent had disputed a line call at 12-7.
“In the middle part of the match I lost a bit of concentration, so it was a bit tough,” Oktila said.
The women’s singles SL 3 final on Saturday witnessed a possible changing of the guard in Indian para badminton as Manasi Joshi upset the No.1 seed and two-time world champion, Parul Parmar, in straight games (21-12, 21-7).
“This is my first big win and I am really happy,” Joshi said. “Parul is my mentor and our senior player. I have played so many matches against her but beating her was a target I had set myself and I have been able to do it in a major tournament, so I am very satisfied.”
Joshi said she had sought the help of a sports psychologist in the build-up to Basel 2019.
“When you are with someone every day and then have to think about competing against them it is always quite difficult, but this time it was different,” she said.
In the pick of Saturday’s other finals, England’s Rachel Choong and Rebecca Bedford needed six game points and then four match points to see off the challenge of Carmen Poveda Flores of Peru and Katherine Valli of USA in the women’s doubles SS 6 (27-25, 21-17).
Earlier on Saturday, women’s singles WH 1 top seed Valeska Knoblauch of Germany suffered one of the shocks of the championships as she lost her quarter final to China's Yin Menglu (18-21, 13-21).
There were no such surprises in the men’s singles WH 1, as Kim Jung Jun of South Korea and Chan Ho Yuen of Hong Kong, China, both won their semi-finals to set up one of the most eagerly anticipated matches in Para badminton history.
Chan is the only player to have beaten Kim in international competition, ending his six-year winning streak in November 2018. He repeated the feat in Canada in May, but lost the most recent meeting between the pair at the Ireland International.
That match will round out the Basel 2019 Para Badminton World Championships on Sunday afternoon.