Young and vibrant: South Korea star breaks duck against Bingjiao at India Open 2023

Express News Service

NEW DELHI: Emotions were running high as soon An Se Young hit the winning points to pocket her match. The 20-year-old let out a big sigh, signalling how much this victory meant to her. This was after all, against He Bingjiao, a rival from China who had a 4-0 head-to-head record against the Korean coming into the semifinal contest of the India Open 750 event on Saturday. “Just because I lost to her previously doesn’t mean that I hadn’t learnt anything from those experiences. I had been continuously learning from those losses, the mistakes that I had made. That is what has helped me get over the line in this match,” An Se Young, who won 11-21, 21-16, 21-14, reflected after the match that lasted 74 minutes.

The contest itself was a fascinating one. A see-saw battle that saw both the shuttlers exhibit some quality badminton. After a close start, it was one-way traffic in favour of the Chinese player, who’s ranked World No 5. Bingjiao grabbed the lead and never looked back after that. An had plenty to mull going into the second game.

An Se Young seemed to be having a hangover of the opening game early on in the second and was 4-1 behind at one stage. But after trading points with each other briefly, An Se Young sneaked ahead and managed to stay ahead. In the end, she did enough to close out the game and force a decider.Like the second game, An again got off to a slow start as Bingjiao started mixing her shots well, forcing her rival to make mistakes. Leading 7-3, Bingjiao seemed to have momentum on her side. Her depth touch, good balance in her movement, the shuttle was dancing to her tune.

An, on the other hand, was just the opposite during that period. Making errors and lacking that touch.
Down 3-9, the match was slipping away from the youngster. But she made a timely fightback to reel off four consecutive points and close the gap. But the left-handed Bingjiao still had her nose in front.
With the crowd chanting ‘An Se Young, An Se Young’ and cheering every winner, An Se Young suddenly turned the equation in her favour.

She started to assert her game and was forcing the Chinese to make mistakes. She was also able to engage in longer rallies and find pockets of spaces on her rival’s side of the court. Bingjiao also seemed to be under pressure and her touch was letting her down, making some overhits to concede some vital points during the critical period.

Her ability to rub shoulders with the cream of the sport in the last few years has made her one of the players to look out for heading into the 2024 Paris Olympics. She, like most shuttlers, has learnt it the hard way.  “In the beginning (of her career), I would be worried about losing. After suffering many losses, I started analysing my mistakes and that’s how I improved my game and started winning.”

She has already set her eyes on Akane Yamaguchi, someone who’s proven to be a riddle for the Korean star. Yamaguchi has won their last four encounters, the last success coming in the final of Malaysia Open.Yamaguchi booked a spot in the finals after dispatching Thailand’s Katethong 21-17, 21-16. The World No 1 from Japan is now one win away from her third straight title in the BWF circuit.

Fans make their presence felt

Despite the absence of Indian shuttlers, the crowd were in high spirits on Saturday. They were making their presence felt with some loud cheers, egging most of the remaining stars from outside. As soon as Viktor Axelsen’s (World No 1 in men’s singles) name was announced ahead of his semifinal match against Jonatan Christie of Indonesia, the fans went into a frenzy. Viktor didn’t disappoint, bossing the match to win 21-6, 21-12. Even South Korean star An Se Young had a good amount of support. And she duly obliged them by bowing after her hard-fought win against He Bingjiao.

Select results (so far, all semis)

Women’s singles: A Yamaguchi bt S Katethong 21-17, 21-16; An Se Young bt H Bingjiao 11-21, 21-16, 21-16.

Men’s singles: K Vitidsarn bt A Ginting 27-25, 21-15; V Axelsen bt J Christie 21-6, 21-12

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