Olympics: S'pore shuttler Yeo Jia Min overcomes long wait for quick opening win

With her deft flicks and sharp smashes, Yeo Jia Min (pictured) was unstoppable against Haramara Gaitan. PHOTO: AFP

TOKYO - She snagged a photo with 20-time Grand Slam winner and men's tennis world No. 1 Novak Djokovic at the Olympic Village on Sunday, and has been rooming with three-time Olympic medallist Feng Tianwei.

It is no wonder Singapore shuttler Yeo Jia Min strutted out at the Musashino Forest Sport Plaza looking inspired. Her deft flicks and sharp smashes were on point as the world No. 30 eased past Mexico's world No. 92 Haramara Gaitan 21-7, 21-10 yesterday.

The 22-year-old Yeo will play South Korea's world No. 18 Kim Ga-eun today for a place in the round of 16. Kim had beaten Gaitan 21-14, 21-9 on Saturday.

She told The Straits Times: "Djokovic and I just happened to come out of the dining hall at the same time so I took a selfie with him.

"And it's really great to room with Tianwei. We are both the more quiet type and we get along quite well. She is like an older sister to me.

We shared our experiences from our sport and it's interesting to see things from another perspective from a seasoned Olympian who has been to four editions.

"I also noticed how she is very calm and focused when she prepares for her match."

Yeo will have to keep her composure like she did on her Olympic debut if she is to advance to the knockout rounds.

She has a 3-1 head-to-head record against Kim, which includes two wins in their most recent meetings in 2019.

She said: "It's been some time since we last played, so I don't want to comment much about her. Since the draw came out a while ago, we have been preparing for this... I'm confident of winning if I can stay focused and be in my best form."

Yeo was definitely in the zone against Gaitan. Despite reaching the match venue 90 minutes ahead of the scheduled 1.20pm start, the waiting time for her Olympic debut grew to more than three hours as the matches before hers ran into third games.

She laughed as she listed the things she did to kill time - updating her parents not to camp in front of the television just yet, eating a banana and energy bar and gel, listening to music and hitting with compatriot Loh Kean Yew to warm up.

But once she was out on Court 1, she was ruthless and efficient, killing off the tie in just 25 minutes.
Time will be of the essence again as her match against Kim is at 9am today, which means no late-night chats with Feng as she needs to wake up at 6am.

Despite her opponent having almost four days of rest compared to less than 14 hours for her, Yeo insisted that will not be a factor.
She said: "I think it is fine... I feel more excitement than pressure. I just want to play some more.

"I was really excited and looking forward to my first match. Others have played their first match, and I was just waiting for a few days, getting excited and nervous.

"I'm happy I was able to get used to the hall pretty fast, to be able to play how I thought I would, and I hope to keep up this form for tomorrow morning's match."

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