2023 in Review: An-Precedented Phenomenon

2023 in Review: An-Precedented Phenomenon
An Se Young

Not so long ago, women’s singles was considered the most competitive of the five categories.

That was until An Se Young came along.

It is extraordinary that one player could dominate a category renowned for having a number of accomplished athletes. (After all, An Se Young’s time in elite badminton saw her step into a world with two Olympic and five world champions.) And yet, that’s what unfolded in 2023, with the Korean stepping up a level above the competition, displaying a unique brand of badminton that saw her to 10 individual titles in the season.

When An won her 10th title – the Asian Games gold – there were two months to go in the season, with Kento Momota’s singles record of 11 titles ripe for the taking. However, a knee injury that An picked up in the final put paid to her hopes, and she would have to be content with 10.

A landmark win at the World Championships

Yet, how close was she to equalling Momota even while on the mend from the knee injury! In her three events after the Asian Games, she made two semifinals – in the second instance, she had almost clinched her spot in the final before a fabulous comeback from Tai Tzu Ying from 10-19 and 16-20 down in the semifinals of the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2023. In many ways, that result had been an outlier, for An otherwise was mostly unruffled in the most extreme of situations.

Steady as a Rock

Of all the attributes that make An Se Young such a formidable player, her stability under pressure is the biggest asset.

Consider her win-loss ratio this year: 87 wins in the season (including walkovers but not byes), against just nine losses.  Then consider her record in finals (team and individual): 11 wins against four losses.

Then again, it is apparent how An has evolved through the season. After her fourth straight loss to Akane Yamaguchi (PETRONAS Malaysia Open final), An immediately struck back the following week in India – where she also beat He Bing Jiao for the first time.

There would be just one more loss to Yamaguchi – in the final of the German Open – before An Se Young swamped the two-time world champion, winning their next three matches in straight games.

An Se Young won the BWF Female Player of the Year award

Title-Winning Spree

After losing in the final of the Badminton Asia Championships 2023 to Tai Tzu Ying, An Se Young would win all of her next seven finals – six of them in straight games! That included the TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2023, when, facing three-time champion Carolina Marin – the Korean left her opponent a shadow of her forceful self.

There was only one instance when she succumbed to pressure – in the final of the TotalEnergies BWF Sudirman Cup Finals 2023, when she went in with Korea 0-2 down to China.  She uncharacteristically fell in straight games to Chen Yu Fei, despite a belated bid to rescue the tie after saving three match points in the second game.

Like a true champion, however, An bounced back stronger than ever following that setback. She would win seven of the next eight tournaments, besides helping the women’s team to only their second-ever Asian Games gold, in the process avenging her Sudirman Cup loss to Chen Yu Fei.

With the Olympic Games coming up, An Se Young will doubtless be favourite to repeat what her predecessor Bang Soo Hyun did in 1996. How strongly An Se Young returns – and how the opposition copes with her – are likely to define women’s singles in the months to come.

An Se Young’s 2023:

Individual Titles Won: 10

*YONEX SUNRISE India Open 2023
*DAIHATSU Indonesia Masters 2023
*YONEX All England 2023
*TOYOTA GAZOO RACING Thailand Open 2023
*KFF Singapore Open 2023
*Korea Open 2023
*DAIHATSU Japan Open 2023
*TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2023
*VICTOR China Open 2023
*Asian Games 2022

Team Events: Asian Games women’s team gold; Sudirman Cup silver
Finals Played (Team and Individual): 15
Finals Won (Team and Individual): 11
Finals Won in Straight Games: 7

Award: BWF Female Player of the Year 2023