The consequence – the Korean will play in tomorrow’s PETRONAS Malaysia Open 2023 final against Akane Yamaguchi after winning 21-12 19-21 21-9. An attributed her steady start to the season to a training programme she underwent at the end of last year.
“The intensive training helped me a lot. It gave me what I needed and I’ve prepared well for this season. Physically, I’m feeling really good,” said An.
“That I’m now able to beat top players like Chen more often, I see this as a progress in my quest to win the World Championships and Olympic gold.”
While it was at the Malaysia Masters six months ago that An won for the first time in eight meetings against Chen, she says the two three-game losses preceding that were the real turning points in their previously one-sided rivalry.
“I started believing and enjoying the duels more. And I could sense I was getting better,” said the 20-year-old world No.4.
Today at her preferred battleground, An wrapped up the first game in 19 minutes. The second was entertainingly consuming, a neck-and-neck combat which An edged before running away in the decider, racing to an 8-0 lead to cement her grip on the match. Chen was mentally beaten by interval, the result an inevitability awaiting its confirmation.
“I was trying to follow Chen’s pace but I had the patience to take it one point at a time,” explained An. “This is my favourite hall. The speed of the shuttle is perfect, just the way I like it. I can go fast and slow as I want.
“I really want the trophy now but I won’t go into the match expecting anything.”