TAIPEI (CNA) – Taiwanese badminton star Tai Tzu-ying (戴資穎) earned her third consecutive women’s singles title in Malaysia, after winning the 2019 Malaysia Open final yesterday.

Tai beat world No. 4 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan 21-16, 21-19 in two straight games, winning her first title of the season to further consolidate her world No. 1 women’s singles ranking.

Tai and Yamaguchi had previously played 14 times, with Tai winning eight of those games.

The 24-year-old Taiwanese got off to a good start in the final, taking a 6-1 lead over her Japanese opponent before winning the first game 21-16.

The second game was closer, but Tai was able to power through to a hard-fought victory 21-19, taking two consecutive points with the score at 19-19.

With the victory on Sunday, Tai took home the title and US$49,000 in prize money. She also became the first woman to win the women’s singles at the tournament three years in a row since China’s Zhang Ning (張寧) who claimed the title from 2004-2006.

Tai had previously claimed three Malaysia Open women’s singles titles, the first in 2013 by beating Yao Xue (姚雪) of China.

She advanced to the finals for three consecutive years from 2016-2018 and took the title in 2017 and 2018. In 2016, she was runner-up to Ratchanok Intanon of Thailand.

This year, the tournament offered a total of US$70,000 in prize money.

By Lung Po-an and Evelyn Kao