Sports Desk, Jan 29 (efe-epa).- Spanish badminton great and reigning Olympic women’s singles champion Carolina Marin fell to rising South Korean teenage star An Se-young 21-16, 14-21, 21-19 in round-robin action Friday at the World Tour Finals, yet she still finished runner-up in her group and will battle for the title this weekend.
The 27-year-old Marin had won back-to-back tournaments – the Yonex Thailand Open and the Toyota Thailand Open, each time defeating world No. 1 Tai Tzu-ying of Chinese Taipei in the final – to start the year.
She then ran her 2021 winning streak to 12 matches by defeating Russia’s Evgeniya Kosetskaya and Canada’s Michelle Li in round-robin action earlier this week at the World Tour Finals, which is being played at the Impact Arena in Muang Thong Thani, Thailand.
Marin fell behind 10-4 in Friday’s match due to an uncharacteristically high number of unforced errors before rallying to close the deficit to just 16-15.
The 18-year-old An, however, then took advantage of several more mistakes by her opponent to snap Marin’s streak of 24 consecutive games won at the start of the new year.
Marin got off to a better start in the second game, going up 11-8 at the mid-game interval when An yanked a forehand clear wide of the sideline.
The Spaniard then hit a slew of winners to extend that lead to 20-11 before finishing off the game four points later.
Marin, who had played a lot of badminton coming into Friday’s contest and was eager to conserve her energy for the weekend, seemed content to keep the rallies short and end points either with winners or quick unforced errors.
That dynamic continued in the decider, in which Marin fell behind 17-12 with some risky play atypical of her normal high-percentage approach.
Although she closed to 20-19 with a drop-shot winner, the match ended on the following point when Marin left a forehand in the net.
The victory was an important breakthrough for An, who had lost to Marin in the semifinals of the two Thailand Open events earlier this month.
Despite the loss, the Spaniard will be pleased to have kept the match time of her final round-robin contest to 55 minutes as she looks ahead to Saturday’s semifinals.
Next up for An on Saturday will be the top-ranked Tai, who advanced to the final four with a 23-25, 21-12, 21-9 victory over Thailand’s Ratchanok Intanon.
Marin will be the heavy favorite against Thailand’s Pornpawee Chochuwong, who came out on top in a round-robin group that featured two former world champions – Intanon and India’s P.V. Sindhu – and the current world No. 1.
The men’s singles semifinal line-up also is set, with red-hot Dane Viktor Axelsen, the 2017 world champion, set to take on Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien-chen and Denmark’s Anders Antonsen scheduled to face off against Chinese Taipei’s Wang Tzu-wei.
Several top players are missing at this year’s World Tour Finals, with the entire Chinese contingent withdrawing due to Covid-19 concerns and the Japanese team also absent after men’s singles world No. 1 and defending champion Kento Momota tested positive for the coronavirus. EFE-EPA