Ahn Se-young (Samsung Life Insurance), who has been labeled as a “badminton prodigy” and “the future of Korean badminton,” is now the world’s strongest player.
Ahn, the world No. 2 in women’s singles, defeated No. 4 Tai Tzu-ying (Chinese Taipei) 2-0 (21-9 21-15) in the women’s singles final of the Korea Open at Jinnam Gymnasium in Yeosu, South Jeolla Province, on Wednesday.
Ahn, who won the women’s singles title at the event last year and brought South Korea its first gold medal in seven years, won her second straight title at the tournament. It is the first time in 29 years that a South Korean player has won back-to-back women’s singles titles at the Korea Open since Hwang Su-hyun in 1993-1994.
Ahn won her sixth gold medal of the year in international competition. What a rise.
Ahn’s strong defensive game, backed by her physical strength, has been the face of Korean badminton since the Tokyo 2020 Olympics. However, her offense was somewhat weak and she often failed to cross the final threshold to win.
To compensate for this, Ahn spent the last year training with weights, improving her stamina and adding power to her smashes. The results of her training were immediate.
In January, she defeated her arch-rival Akane Yamaguchi (JPN) at the Indian Open to take the top spot, and then went on to win gold at the Indonesia Masters.
In March, she won badminton’s most prestigious event, the All-England Open, beating rival Chen Yufei (CHN) to the top spot, a feat she hadn’t accomplished in 27 years since 1996 in Suwon.
Ahn added a gold medal at the Thailand Open in June with a win over He Bingjiao (CHN), and a week later, she defeated Yamaguchi again at the Singapore Open to lift her fifth trophy.
Then, at the Korea Open in Korea, Ahn defeated Chen Yuefei in the quarterfinals before dominating Tai Zhiying in the final to claim another podium finish.
Ahn has now reached the top of the podium six times in 10 international events this year. The rest of the field was more consistent, with three runner-up finishes and one third-place finish.
The win was even more significant as it came against top-ranked players such as No. 1 Yamaguchi, No. 3 Chen Yufei, No. 4 Tai Zhiying and No. 5 He Bingjiao.
“There were many times when I wanted to give up while enduring the intense training, but I believed in myself and did my best every day, and the results followed,” Ahn said afterward.
After her victory, Ahn will now turn her attention to next week’s Japan Open. After that, she has a number of important events coming up, including the World Championships in August and the Asian Games in Hangzhou in September.
Ahn will need to be even sharper on offense if she wants to keep her momentum going in the second half of the year. While her defense is excellent and she is strong in sustained rallies, her blade is still a bit dull compared to other competitors.
This is why she struggled a bit in the Korea Open quarterfinals against Chen Yufei, failing to capitalize on chances to close out the match.
Ahn is well aware of this and will be focusing on improving her offense before the Asian Games.
Of the “Big Four” of Yamaguchi, Ahn, Chen Yufei and Tai Zhiying, only Ahn has never been ranked No. 1 in the world.
Given her recent form, she has a chance to knock Yamaguchi off the top spot if she performs well at the World Championships and Asian Games.
If she can maximize her strengths and improve on her weaknesses, 고스톱 she will no longer be labeled as a “genius girl” or “the future” and will be able to earn the title of “queen.