June 8, 2023
SINGAPORE – Down 17-12 and playing with the draught, Loh Kean Yew could have gone with the flow and conserved energy for a decider in the first round of the Singapore Badminton Open on Wednesday.
But backed by a 5,000-strong partisan home crowd at the Indoor Stadium, the world No. 5 refused to throw in the towel, defiantly claiming nine out of the next 11 points to beat Hong Kong’s 14th-ranked Lee Cheuk Yiu 21-19, 21-19.
Loh will take on world No. 35 Frenchman Christo Popov in the men’s singles round of 16 on Thursday.
He said: “I heard the fans loud and clear today, and it felt amazing. I will need to take one match at a time but hopefully, I’ll be able to play more matches in front of fellow Singaporeans this week.”
Perhaps the fresher of the two as he had skipped last week’s Thailand Open to prepare for this event while Lee reached the final in Bangkok, Loh managed to play with more zip and variation to take the first game.
In a match where both players also defended well, Loh felt the key to his win, other than his never-say-die attitude, was his net game. He explained: “The draught was quite strong and the shuttle was moving quite fast today.
“As we are both attacking players, it would be hard to defend if either of us play a lot of lifts to the opponent. As such, we had to focus more on net play to stop the opponent’s attack.”
In the women’s singles, compatriot Yeo Jia Min also made a winning start in her home event, as she overcame world No. 17 Zhang Yiman 21-18, 21-14 for her first win over the Chinese in two attempts.
Against an opponent who is not a hard hitter, the 29th-ranked Yeo was calm as she covered the court well while playing high-quality shots to move Zhang around and compel unforced errors.
Like Loh, she also had to compose herself to rally from 14-12 and 7-3 down in the first and second games respectively to advance to the next round, where she will face South Korea’s world No. 2 An Se-young.
Yeo, 24, said: “We both made unforced errors, but I tried to stick to my game plan to take the initiative more and get on the attacks as much as I can. It will be a tough match next against a physically strong opponent. I will have to bring my best game and make the most of my momentum and home ground support.”
Fellow Singaporeans and world No. 21 Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong also took the fight to the higher-ranked Indonesians Apriyani Rahayu, one half of the Tokyo Olympics women’s doubles champions, and Siti Ramadhanti before losing 15-21, 21-19, 21-15 to the fifth-ranked pair.
Earlier in the day, the audience were entertained by a series of high-quality marathon matches at the US$850,000 (S$1.15 million) tournament, especially on Court 1, where the first seven matches went the distance.
Thai star Kunlavut Vitidsarn survived a comeback from Chinese Taipei’s 28th-ranked Wang Tzu-wei, as the world No. 3 required seven matchpoints to prevail 21-15, 14-21, 28-26.
He will take on 21st-ranked Ng Tze Yong for a place in the quarter-finals, and the Malaysian also went through a gruelling match before overcoming Ireland’s Nhat Nguyen 21-17, 18-21, 21-15.
In the men’s doubles, Indonesia’s world No. 26 Pramudya Kusumawardana and Yeremia Rambitan staged an astonishing fightback from one game and 11-2 down in the second to beat Denmark’s 11th-ranked Kim Astrup and Anders Rasmussen 12-21, 21-18, 21-19.
There was one more late upset, as Malaysia’s world No. 10 Lee Zii Jia was stunned by China’s 27th-ranked Weng Hongyang, who won 22-20, 16-21, 21-19.