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Yeo Jia Min continues fine start to 2024 with another top-10 upset

A more mature and positive Yeo Jia Min claimed her second top-10 scalp in back-to-back tournaments in 2024 as she beat Indonesia’s world No. 7 Gregoria Tunjung 25-23, 21-14 in the India Open’s round of 16 on Jan 18.

The Singaporean world No. 20 will face top-ranked An Se-young next on Jan 19 at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall in New Delhi. The South Korean had progressed with a 21-19, 14-21, 21-14 win over American Zhang Beiwen.

Yeo’s quarter-final with An will be a rematch of their last-eight showdown at last week’s Malaysia Open, when An prevailed in three games to extend her head-to-head superiority to 7-1. Yeo had beaten China’s world No. 8 Han Yue earlier in the Super 1000 tournament.

The US$850,000 (S$1.14m) India Open is a Super 750 competition on the third level of the Badminton World Federation World Tour, behind the World Tour Finals and Super 1000 events.

Yeo’s fine start to 2024 is in stark contrast to her five straight defeats to open 2023, in which she did not make it past the second round of a Super 1000 or Super 750 event, and could not beat any top-10 player in 14 attempts.

The 24-year-old told The Straits Times: “I focused on the details of improving my game and saw results in training. That gave me confidence to challenge any top player now. However, I don’t like to compare myself to others or look back on the past too much. I will focus only on what is next for me.

“I became friends with An Se-young when I trained with her and her teammates in South Korea for two weeks in November, and I will try to be mentally sharper for our next match.”

Yeo had gone into her match against Tunjung trailing 2-6 in their past encounters, with the Indonesian enjoying a breakthrough in which she rose from world No. 31 to a career-high seventh in 18 months. She also beat the Singaporean thrice in 2023.

Under slow conditions that were conducive for long rallies, the first game was a roller-coaster, with both players taking turns to build four-point advantages early on before trading leads nearer to the end.

Yeo was fortunate to win a couple of points while being out of position, but showed tenacity to save two game points while requiring three of her own to clinch the opener. While she won only four out of 13 games that went to deuce in 2023, she has managed a perfect two-for-two in 2024.

In the second game, Yeo beat Tunjung at her own game with good court coverage and aggression to record another encouraging win.

National singles head coach Kelvin Ho said: “Jia Min is more mature now in handling different shots and is more accepting of changes in the game.

“She has grown through the wins and losses in 2023, and developed well working with the coaching team and sparring partners. She understands better her strengths and how to bring them into her playing style, so she can be more positive when creating her game plans.”

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