And so, 27 years since Korea last had a women’s singles champion at the All England, An Se Young replicated the feat of her illustrious predecessor Bang Soo Hyun.
The 21-year-old’s third title from her fifth successive final this year was achieved with a composed takedown of Olympic champion Chen Yu Fei. In a contest between two of the most stable defensive players in the world, An showed the virtues of having added to her attacking repertoire, injecting pace at the right moments to gain critical shifts in momentum.
Chen made a sensational recovery from 13-17 to 17-all in the third and then saved two match points, before An’s smash to the body made her only the fourth Korean women’s singles winner of the championships.
Particularly impressive was that had been no dip in physical intensity, despite having spent 82 minutes on court Saturday evening in a tense thriller against Tai Tzu Ying.
An said she surprised herself given the physical condition she was in during the final.
“I was surprised today, because I felt my body was heavy. But then I thought I should endure the moment and seize the opportunity. Today I wanted to have fun and play with confidence. I still cannot believe what happened. It’s giving me the chills.”
Chen was a gracious loser, admitting that she’d been outplayed. At important moments the Olympic champion was not her usual consistent self, easing the pressure on her opponent with imprecise shots.
“An played very well, she was very calm on court. Throughout the match I was down more than I was leading, and that gave me the pressure. But this whole week, I performed quite well,” said Chen.
“Those two points at the end, I was nervous and in a rush. My opponent pushed the pace up. Looking back at those two points, I feel I should have been calm. She’s very stable on court, makes no mistakes, she has a very good rhythm and is very hard to score off.”
Li Triumphs as Shi Crumbles
The men’s singles final will perhaps be remembered for the unusual capitulation of 2018 champion Shi Yu Qi to younger compatriot Li Shi Feng. Having featured in a sizzling opening game, in which he had two game points, Shi suffered a stunning meltdown, earning just five points in the second.
“I’m amazed by this outcome. I never even expected to reach the final,” said the winner. “The key was to never give up. Obviously there was pressure, but I’d aimed really high. I found that whenever I sensed less pressure, I could perform better.
To his credit, Shi didn’t offer any excuses.
“I fell behind quickly in the second and I couldn’t catch up,” Shi said. “I felt fine physically. The gap had widened between us and I wasn’t sure what I could do. I made a few mistakes and the gap got too wide.
“But I made the final. Even though I lost, it means I’m still there.”