Badminton: Yeo Jia Min ends slump with Polish Open victory; Jin Yujia, Crystal Wong win women’s doubles

Singapore's Yeo Jia Min wins her fourth international title after beating Turkey's Neslihan Yigit in the Polish Open women's singles final on March 26. PHOTO: POLSKI ZWIAZEK BADMINTONA/FACEBOOK

SINGAPORE – After achieving her breakthrough year in 2021 when she became the first Singaporean to qualify for the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour Finals, the Republic’s top female badminton player Yeo Jia Min had a rough end to 2022 and start to 2023 when she won just one of 11 matches.

As the 24-year-old’s ranking slipped from a career-high 16th to 35th, the Singapore Badminton Association (SBA) decided to field her in the lower-tier Polish Open, an International Challenge (IC) event that is one grade below the BWF World Tour structure.

This worked a treat as Yeo ended her slump on Sunday, when she beat Turkey’s world No. 65 Neslihan Yigit 21-13, 21-11 in the women’s singles final for her fourth international title, which came with US$1,200 (S$1,600) prize money.

On her Instagram page, she described it as a “healing week” in which she found her groove to beat Slovakia’s Martina Repiska (95th), Turkey’s Ozge Bayrak (208th), Hungary’s Vivien Sandorhazi (87th), Frenchwoman Rosy Oktavia Pancasari (157th) and Yigit in straight games. This will give her a boost going into the Spain Masters that starts on Tuesday.

She said: “It’s been hard on me mentally because I have not been winning matches recently and I was not sure how to deal with it.

“Going into this week, I focused on overcoming these feelings with faith every day. It helped me to get into a better mindset to compete. I hope this win will help bring out my best and give me more confidence leading up to the Olympic qualifying period (May 1, 2023 to April 28, 2024).”

SBA technical director Martin Andrew praised Yeo for her work ethic despite her recent struggles.

He said: “Over the last 12 months, she has had some difficult draws against some of the top players and also did not take a few opportunities when they arose. But she never stopped working hard, as we worked towards getting an understanding of how to use her weapons while playing with a style that suits her.”

Andrew explained that they decided to send her to the Polish Open to get some competitive wins in a tournament that is regularly one of the strongest IC tournaments in Europe, and to gather more ranking points than she may have got at the higher-tier Swiss Open (Super 300 event) if she had lost in the early rounds.

“She still had to reach the final, and she performed well to do that, which is really encouraging for her, and her task now is to keep taking it forward,” he added.

Compatriots Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong were also victorious in the women’s doubles final as the world No. 23 pair beat Canada’s 34th ranked Catherine Choi and Josephine Wu 21-17, 17-21, 21-15 for their second title and a US$1,350 cheque.

Jin Yujia (left) and Crystal Wong win their second international title together after beating Canada in the Polish Open women’s doubles final. PHOTO: POLSKI ZWIAZEK BADMINTONA/FACEBOOK

In the process, they overcame England’s Estelle van Leeuwen and Hope Warner (247th), unranked Taiwanese Hsu Yin-hui and Lee Chih-chen, Denmark’s Iben Bergstein and Ann-Sofie Husher Ruus (266th), and had a semi-final walkover against Sweden’s Moa and Tilde Sjoo (64th).

Jin, 26, said: “We stayed calm and confident, stuck with our strategy, and trusted each other in every game.”

Wong, 23, added: “This title definitely gives us more confidence in ourselves, knowing where we stand in the international circuit.”

In addition, Andy Kwek and Loh Kean Hean (130th) reached the men’s doubles semi-final, where they lost to Taiwanese Chang Ko-chi and Po Li-wei (39th), Jason Teh (71st) was beaten by Finland’s Kalle Koljonen (77th) in the men’s singles round of 16, while Kwek and Wong (94th) lost to unranked Taiwanese Chen Xin-yuan and Hsu in the opening round of the mixed doubles.

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