A rivalry is blossoming among two of the most talented young players in women’s singles. And while one of them – world No.2 Chen Yu Fei – is currently having the better of the rivalry against An Seyoung, it’s a good bet that the Korean 19-year-old will sooner or later figure out a way past her nemesis.
Given that they have somewhat similar styles, this rivalry will be one of the most keenly followed over the next few years.
But what does An Seyoung herself make of Chen Yu Fei? What lessons has she learnt from her defeats – including at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games?
The Korean talks about the Olympic champion, her experience of Tokyo 2020, and her ambitions:
You have lost all your matches against Chen Yu Fei, including at the Olympics. What’s the hardest thing about playing her?
I would say patience. She is an all-round player, barely makes a mistake, and with her playing style… I have to run and try to counterattack but since I fail to attack sometimes, it makes me lose patience.
It is hard for women players to do the jump smash. But she has a good command of that skill and she’s good at dealing with any kind of game situation. She is comfortably coping with those game situations that can frustrate other players.
Losing to her has been tough, but I try my best to focus on the game without thinking of other things.
How has your preparation been since the Olympics, considering the busy schedule until the end of the year?
After the Olympics, unfortunately, I had to self-quarantine for two weeks. Although these tournaments were about to start, I was not able to work out and prepare for the Sudirman Cup so I had some anxiety about it. Usually the preparation period would be one or two weeks. I wasn’t able to prepared (physically) well in those two weeks, but I mentally prepared myself well.
Tokyo was your first Olympics. How was the experience?
First, I felt the need for more preparation. I didn’t achieve a great result at the Olympics. I learnt a lot by playing against higher ranked players and it was a chance for me to clarify what my weaknesses were.
Has the Olympics influenced any change in your approach for upcoming tournaments?
I got to know what singles playing is like, how to make opponents more frustrated, how to win easily… it made me analyze all this.
You are only 19, and already a star. Do you find the pressure of expectations and other demands hard to deal with?
The pressure was huge in 2019, but now I think of it as interest and positive energies from other people. I’m trying to enjoy this. If I think of it as pressure, it’s hard, but if I think of it as positive energy, I can enjoy it.
What hobbies occupy you outside of badminton?
I like to cook but it is hard to cook since I have to go abroad a lot for the tournaments. I like to be curious about recipes and research ingredients.
I also like to watch stars in the night sky. I find peace of mind from watching them.
You mean you like stargazing? With a telescope?
No (laughs), not at that level. I just like watching the night sky, at home and also at the training center. We can see a lot of stars there as well.
What are your main ambitions in badminton?
It is my dream to have a good result at the Asian Games, Olympics and World Championships. But I couldn’t reach any of my goals yet. One day, I want to have these titles.