Shuttler Yeo Jia Min's first-set fightback key to ending winless run
S'pore's top female shuttler to face South Korean teen sensation An in last 16 today
Singapore's top female shuttler Yeo Jia Min yesterday ended a long winless run with an impressive 22-20, 21-18 first-round win over Ruselli Hartawan at the Toyota Thailand Open, catalysed by a fightback at 17-20 down in the first set.
Yeo, the world No. 26, was playing only her second match since last March due to the coronavirus' disruptive impact on the badminton calendar, but there was little sign of that at the Impact Arena in Bangkok.
Against her Indonesian opponent, who had beaten her in five of their last six meetings before yesterday, the 21-year-old Singaporean showed nerves of steel, coming back from three game-points down to fire off five straight points and clinch the opening set.
It was Yeo's first win since October 2019. Since then, she had lost 11 straight singles and doubles matches, including last week's 21-15, 21-15 defeat by former world champion Ratchanok Intanon.
Against the Indonesian world No. 35 Hartawan, Yeo trailed at the midway point of both sets, 8-11 and 7-11, but both times showed an extra gear in the closing stages.
After the 23-year-old levelled to 18-18 in the second set, the Singaporean former world junior No. 1 rattled off three straight points to win the match.
Yeo told The New Paper: "I am aware that I did not win in a few competitions last year, but I just continued to believe in the process...
"As compared to last week, where I was a little passive, this time I took more initiative on court. From last week to today, coach Kelvin (Ho) and I also had more focus on when to build rallies and when to attack more."
National singles coach Ho added that Yeo had maintained her intensity and applied her game strategy well, and praised her ability to "overcome the pressure" during crunch time.
Next up for Yeo in the round of 16 today is South Korea's An Se-young, who is ranked world No. 9 at just 18 years of age.
The last time the pair met in a non-team tournament was in the final of the Hyderabad Open in August 2019, the last of the Singaporean's three titles on the Badminton World Federation circuit.
Meanwhile, the other Singaporean in action yesterday, Loh Kean Yew, lost 14-21, 21-16, 21-10 to Thailand's world No. 29 and three-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn, 19.
Just like in his 13-21, 21-10, 21-16 defeat by world No. 7 Jonatan Christie last week, the Singaporean world No. 38 was comfortably the better player in the first set before fading away.
Said the 23-year-old Loh: "I guess I still have much more to do. For instance, I have to work on my fitness a lot more...
"It's been long since I last played with world-class players, so I think it's good to know where I stand and what to work on."