An Se Young Faces Opening Test From Compatriot Kim

An Se Young begins her quest for a record 11th title this season with an assignment against compatriot Kim Ga Eun in the first match of the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2023 at 10am local time.

While the world No.1 is overwhelming favourite to match Kento Momota’s record haul of titles in a single calendar year, An herself might approach her opening match cautiously, for her compatriot does have a good record against her, having beaten her thrice in seven matches. Although Kim’s last win over An was back in 2019, the world No.13 has struck form in recent months, winning the Korea Masters 2023 in early November and making the semifinals of the last qualifying event, the LI-NING China Masters 2023.

Kim’s form, coupled with An Se Young’s tentative return from a knee injury sustained at the Asian Games, does add an element of uncertainty to opening women’s singles Group A match when the two meet on the red courts of the Hangzhou Olympic Center.

Chen Yu Fei and Han Yue react after they were drawn in the same group

An’s clash with Kim is one of seven same-country matches on the opening day. Korea have two more such contests — Baek Ha Na/Lee So Hee against Kim So Yeong/Kong Hee Yong (also scheduled at 10am) and Seo Seung Jae/Chae Yu Jung against Kim Won Ho/Jeong Na Eun.

Similarly China have three and Indonesia one. Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan face fast-rising youngsters Liu Sheng Shu/Tan Ning; Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei takes on Han Yue, while Liang Wei Keng/Wang Chang are up against defending champions Liu Yu Chen/Ou Xuan Yi. Indonesia’s Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto will match wits with compatriots Muhammad Shohibul Fikri/Bagas Maulana.

Chen Qing Chen and Jia Yi Fan discuss the draw

Like An Se Young against Kim Ga Eun, Chen Qing Chen/Jia Yi Fan might be favourites, but their young compatriots Liu Sheng Shu/Tan Ning have beaten them in their only international engagement – at the YONEX French Open in October – and will approach the opening contest with nothing to lose.

Among other matches to watch out for on Wednesday are Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik against Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi in a clash between past world champions; Li Shi Feng against Anders Antonsen – their last match at the All England in March was a cracker of a contest – and Kang Min Hyuk/Seo Seung Jae against Kim Astrup/Anders Skaarup Rasmussen in a repeat of the World Championships final.

Most of the contenders are experienced campaigners, but there are also a few first-timers at the season finale. Among them are Malaysia’s Chen Tang Jie/Toh Ee Wei, who had a breakthrough season on the HSBC BWF World Tour.

“To play here is really meaningful for me and Tang Jie because our partnership is just a year old and I’m happy we made it here. When we started our partnership he told me he wanted to play this tournament. We didn’t have a specific target of qualifying, but we kept our focus for every match, and I’m happy we qualified. Everything is good here, and I’m looking forward to our matches.” – Toh Ee Wei

“To qualify for the World Tour Finals means that we did a great job this year and I’m really proud of myself and my partner. But we still have a lot to improve on. We played a lot of events this year as we started from the bottom and we had to build ranking points to qualify for the Olympics. Sport is unlimited, so every time we play we have to learn to improve.” – Chen Tang Jie

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