Badminton: 17-year-old Yeo Jia Min takes first title in Vietnam Open GP

Singaporean shuttler Yeo Jia Min won the Yonex Sunrise Vietnam Grand Prix, in Ho Chi Minh City on July 24, 2016.
Singaporean shuttler Yeo Jia Min won the Yonex Sunrise Vietnam Grand Prix, in Ho Chi Minh City on July 24, 2016.PHOTO: TRUNG HO

HO CHI MINH CITY - Seeded players are always seen as tournament favourites.

But 17-year-old Yeo Jia Min has proven otherwise - the unheralded Singaporean has beaten the region's top seeds to win her first badminton title at the Yonex Sunrise Vietnam Grand Prix.

As an unseeded player, she did not face the pressure of having to live up to her reputation.

"I didn't feel that pressured and I was just thinking about my game," said the teenager.

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.

Yeo is now a title-holder of a tournament thatlies two levels below the badminton Super Series.

"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-set wins propelled her to the last leg of the tournament. She beat Japan's Mine Ayumi 21-14, 21-17.

She attributes her victory in the final to strategy - an assessment of her opponent revealed Mine's preference for rallying, 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 taking place next month, it seems that the decision to take a year off school to focus on her craft has paid off. She graduated from 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've 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."