South Korea's AN Se Young stunned everyone during Denmark Open by defeating World Champion Pusarla Venkata Sindhu of India. Some may have thought it to be the sort of upset that occurs every now and then in this sport. But those who saw the 17-year old in action realised that this result was more than that.
Far from being an odd upset, it was a harbinger of things to come. The teenager possessed genuine talent and displayed it once again in the French Open which was played in the week following the event in Denmark.
In Paris, Se-young defeated former World no. 1 and Olympic bronze medalist Saina Nehwal in quarter-final. Considering that Nehwal hasn't been in top form for some time, this result was not counted as a big shock.
But then, Se-young got the better of another top player in Akane Yamaguchi. This was a much more impressive win. Still, there was one mitigating factor in it: the lack of full recovery by Yamaguchi from her injury.
In the final, there was going to be no relief for the Korean. She was up against the Olympic Champion Carolina Marin. The latter has made an incredible comeback from a dangerous ACL injury and has already got a World Tour title under her belt. The Spaniard also played the semi-final in Denmark before losing to Japan's Nozomi Okuhara.
The speed and power of Marin seemed to initially overpower her much younger opponent. But then the precocious South Korean girl fought back to score a resounding win.
Why is she so good?
There are many qualities possessed by Se-young that make her a very capable player. To begin with, she is a great retriever and makes her opponents work extremely hard for every point. This quality was especially useful against the 3-time World Champion since the latter's physically intense game, when stretched, exhausted her and probably led to her downfall in the deciding game.
On top of that, the Korean sensation seems to be brilliant at the net. Though she did commit errors in the final, usually her exchanges at the net showed her efficiency in that aspect of the game. Lastly, she also has a killer cross-court smash from round the head position. There was one part of the game where she scored three points in quick succession with this shot.
On top of that, she seems to possesses good stamina and a solid defence. While she looks quite tired, her relentless sparring with Marin showed her fitness. At 17, she is likely to get even stronger in the future. If she can add a good drop shot to her arsenal, that would increase her potency even more.
But, she also needs to be careful. Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon won the World Championship in 2013 at the age of 18. She too seemed all set for a glorious future. That, alas, hasn't happened. Intanon continues to be an also-ran with occasional success rather than consistently being at the top. Early success doesn't guarantee greatness in future. But the signs are bright for Se-young.