An Se Young blazed into January’s tournaments with the eagerness of an athlete who knows that their time to shine has arrived. Fans enjoyed 3 podiums, 2 Gold medals and a blossoming rivalry with Akane that hints at some colossal clashes in the future. I’m keen to watch her play at this year’s All England because the momentum around her is gathering pace. It would not be a surprise to see her step on court on finals day.
Although known as a retriever, this is too simplistic. She possesses a harmonious skill set so her game plans can be liberated from the necessity to compete in a particular way. Her ability to exert unremitting gnawing pressure is the bedrock of her style whilst her talent allows her to gauge when to be patient and when to be aggressive. A couple of years ago I was criticizing her for a lack of consistency. Back then she was often unseeded: she could conquer a top player in an opening round only to fall in the next match. Competing at the highest level exposed the challenge for her of winning four or five hard games in a row.
She has been an absolute menace to the WS status quo over the past twelve months. She has figured out how to stay mentally and physically fresh whilst progressing through a tournament. Resilience is at the core of everything she does. I adore her stubbornness in the face of challenges; the determination to never give up and the self-confidence that her exceptional balance of skills will get her past tough opponents – Olympic champions and world champions are some of her recent scalps. “Fear” has no home in her mental makeup. Even in the face of setbacks she drives herself onwards and it’s this attitude that has let her reach new levels of success.
She is the symbol of the new generation and will be a force to be reckoned with for years to come. At the Atlanta Olympics in 1996 BANG Soo Hyun won gold for Korea in WS, could Paris 2024 see that title return to Korea?