Badminton: Unseeded Yeo wins first title

Yeo Jia Min on her way to winning the Vietnam Grand Prix title yesterday, beating Japan's Mine Ayumi 21-14, 21-17. She strategised correctly, taking control in attack after assessing that her opponent preferred long rallies. The Grand Prix is two lev
Yeo Jia Min on her way to winning the Vietnam Grand Prix title yesterday, beating Japan's Mine Ayumi 21-14, 21-17. She strategised correctly, taking control in attack after assessing that her opponent preferred long rallies. The Grand Prix is two levels below the badminton Super Series. PHOTO COURTESY OF TRUNG HO

Absence of pressure helps 17-year-old, whose move to take a year off studies is paying off

It is always thought that being a seeded player in a tournament would be an advantage.

But 17-year-old Yeo Jia Min has proved that that is not always the case: The Singaporean, who was unseeded, claimed her first professional title at the Yonex Sunrise Vietnam Grand Prix yesterday.

As an unseeded player, Yeo did not face the pressure of having to live up to the expectations generated by being seeded.

"I didn't feel that pressured and I was just thinking about my game," she told The Straits Times after beating Japan's Mine Ayumi, also unseeded, 21-14, 21-17 in the final.

The tournament, which took place in Ho Chi Minh City, featured names such as Vietnam's 44th-ranked Vu Thi Trang, a bronze medallist at the 2013 SEA Games, who was the fourth seed, and top-seeded Taiwanese Hsu Ya-ching, the world No. 33. Hong Kong veteran Yip Pui Yin, the world No. 34 and second seed, withdrew.

"Winning the title has made me more confident in my style of play and in taking on more top players in the future."

Her initial target entering the tournament was to reach the quarter- or semi-finals, but strong momentum and a series of straight-sets wins propelled her to the final.

She attributed her victory in the final to strategy - an assessment of her opponent revealed Ayumi's preference for long rallies, which prompted Yeo to keep going in for the kill.

"The aim was to control the rallies from the start. I tried to command the shots and depended on my attacks to catch her off guard."

With her sights now set on the Singapore International Series next month, it seems that the decision to take a year off school to focus on her craft has paid off.

She graduated from the Singapore Sports School last year, and plans to continue along the trajectory to become a professional badminton player.

Chief coach of the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA), Chua Yong Joo, hopes that Yeo's win will spur other players to achieve similar results.

"It's been some time since we last won a singles title," said the 37-year-old. "Jia Min's win marks a good start for all of us. Hopefully it's a morale booster, and signifies that there is more to come."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 25, 2016, with the headline 'Unseeded Yeo wins first title'. Print Edition | Subscribe