As the world's top-ranked female badminton player, South Korean star An Se-young doesn't lack for confidence. But it's always nice when she can get a timely boost.
An defeated her archrival from Japan, Akane Yamaguchi, to win the China Open over the weekend, in what was her final tuneup for the Hangzhou Asian Games starting later this month.
Yamaguchi, world No. 2, still holds a 12-9 edge head-to-head over the South Korean, but An has won four of their past five meetings.
The China Open victory came on the heels of An's first career world title in Denmark in late August. An will enter the Asian Games as the gold medal favorite. An is 63-5 in the singles this year with nine international titles.
"The China Open was a really important event, coming as it did right after the world championships and just before the Asian Games. And I am really happy to have done well there," An told reporters Tuesday after attending the launch ceremony for the South Korean delegation to Hangzhou. "It gave me so much confidence."
An's Asian Games debut in 2018 was disastrous. She was sent home after losing her very first match in the women's singles to Chen Yufei of China.
At this year's world championships, An defeated Chen, now world No. 3, in the semifinals en route to her gold.
"Back in 2018, I was one of the youngest athletes and I mostly stayed in the shadows," An recalled. "This time, I am going in with a pretty strong track record of success. That's the big difference."
An admitted she was "a bit nervous" about the Asian Games, but she also trusts that her preparation will lead to strong results.
"During the China Open, I was running on fumes at times," An said. "I'll be playing a ton of matches at the Asian Games, and so I'll have to improve my conditioning a bit and try to stay aggressive."
An would not have been considered a title favorite if the Asian Games had been held as scheduled last September. She was world No. 3 this time last year and still had trouble getting past Yamaguchi and Chen.
The one-year postponement, caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, may prove to be a blessing in disguise for An, who said, "I think this past year has given me an opportunity to grow."
Source: Yonhap News Agency