A bronze medal in Budapest; on Sunday 28th April 2019, An Jaehyun became the sixth player from the Korea Republic to gain a men’s singles podium finish at a World Championships.
He followed in the footsteps of Kim Taeksoo, Oh Sangeun, Ryu Seungmin and Lee Sangsu who likewise had been bronze medallists, Joo Saehyuk, the other member of the group, had advanced one step further in 2003 in Paris.
However, when compared with his colleagues, An Jaehyun is very much the exception; his compatriots were not necessarily favourites for honours but all were seeded and very much names to note.
Conversely, An Jaehyun started his quest in the group stage; he appeared the top name in group no.57, that meant with 64 players gaining a direct entry to the main draw, in effect he was no.121 in the order of merit.
Furthermore, taking into consideration the Korea Republic players at the time, he was the tenth listed on the world rankings. Lee Sangsu led the order followed by Jang Woojin, Lim Jonghoon, Jeoung Youngsik, Jeong Sangeun, Cho Seungmin, Park Ganghyeon and Kim Donghyun. Next listed at no.157 came An Jaehyun.
First place in his group ahead of Slovakia’s Alexander Valuch and Turkmenistan’s Emie Garyagdyyev; An Jaehyun accounted for Hong Kong’s Wong Chun Ting and Sweden’s Truls Moregard, followed by success in opposition to Austria’s Daniel Habesohn, Japan’s Tomokazu Harimoto and colleague Jang Woojin. A semi-final place Mattias Falck, like Truls Moregard from Sweden, ended adventures.
Now was that result a total fluke? A flash in the pan? The result of a lucky draw?
The recent WTT Middle East Hub tournaments staged in Doha from Wednesday 3rd to Saturday 13th March suggest that An Jaehyun might be more than capable of repeating similar feats.
Note who he beat in the Contender tournament; after ousting Germany’s Benedikt Duda (11-7, 13-11, 12-14, 11-5), he accounted for Mattias Falck (11-8, 11-9, 11-7), his nemesis in Budapest. Defeat for Sweden but in the next round the Nordic country extracted revenge; the ever improving Anton Källberg ended progress (11-3, 11-5, 11-9).
Meanwhile, one week later at the Star Contender tournament, An Jaehyun did not uproot trees but met expectations. In the opening round of the men’s singles event, he beat Japan’s Masataka Morizono (11-8, 11-6, 11-8) prior to losing to Brazil’s Hugo Calderano (9-11, 11-7, 11-5, 11-4).
Following his efforts at the Liebherr 2019 World Championships, An Jaehyun shot to no.73 on the May world rankings, now in April 2021 he stands at no.39 and is the fourth highest rated player from the Korea Republic behind Jang Woojin, Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu.
It is a very different situation to now approaching three years ago; Jang Woojin, Jeoung Youngsik and Lee Sangsu may well be the first team selection for the Korea Republic, but one wonders how long before we see the name An Jaehyun amongst the top three?
He has proved he enjoys the big stage.
Editor: Ian Marshall