SINGAPORE: Singapore’s top men’s singles shuttler, Loh Kean Yew, put up a valiant fight but ultimately succumbed to China’s Li Shi Feng in straight sets 19-21, 16-21 in the quarterfinals of the KFF Singapore Badminton Open on May 31 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

In the first game, Loh raced to a seven-point lead (12-5), but Li staged a comeback, narrowing the deficit to 12-9 and eventually tying the game at 15-all. Li’s resurgence continued as he took the lead (17-15) and sealed the first game 21-19.

The second game followed a similar pattern. Loh took an early lead (10-6), only for the Asian Games champion to claw back into the game with five consecutive points (11-10).

Although Loh briefly regained the lead at 14-12, Li’s determination paid off. He scored six straight points to establish a decisive advantage (18-14) and ultimately won 21-16.

Although Loh fell short of replicating his semi-final feat from two years ago, he showed significant progress by reaching the quarter-finals this year.

It is a marked improvement from his shocking second-round exit at the hands of Christo Popov last year.

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Photo: Facebook screengrab / edwintongSC

“I learned a lot from the previous encounters, previous tournaments. So I’m glad that this time, I managed to make the quarterfinals. But it wasn’t enough to reach the semifinal.

But I’m very glad that the Singapore team is behind me. And everyone has helped me a lot during this trip. I’ve been getting a lot of help and also a lot of support. So, thank you all so much,” expressed Loh who is currently ranked 12th in the world ranking.

Loh also acknowledged that his opponents’ relentless tactical shifts and clever gameplay pushed him to his limits. It requires him to be highly resourceful and flexible, forcing him to think on his feet and adjust his game plan accordingly. 

“There are constant changes during the game. I was also trying to keep up with the change, but I myself was not brave enough to execute the shots. Was kind of scared of making the errors,” added the 26-year-old.

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Photo: Facebook screengrab / edwintongSC

Mr Edwin Tong, Minister for Culture, Community and Youth and Second Minister for Law, demonstrated his steadfast support for local sports on two separate occasions at the Singapore Badminton Open.

Minister Tong was a visible presence in the stands, passionately cheering on Loh as he battled against world No. 4 Anders Antonsen from Denmark on Thursday.

Demonstrating his unwavering support for the Singapore national shuttler, the Minister returned to the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Friday once again to show his support as Loh faced off against China’s Li in the quarter-finals.

“Kean Yew did not make it today (Friday).  He pushed hard and tried, but there was tension in his game and some hesitation in making the bold moves. And Li Shifeng, the World No. 6, was masterful today and had almost no unforced errors.

Kean Yew led in the first set, going into the break at 11-5, but could not hold the advantage. The second set was tighter, but overall, Shifeng was more precise, moved quick and had more unerring smashes.

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Tough evening, but I think Kean Yew appreciated the vociferous home support today,” Minister Tong posted on his social media page.

Other Singapore players in the competition are women’s singles player Yeo Jia Min, who lost 21-23, 16-21 in the opening round to world No. 8 He Bing Jiao from China.

Mixed doubles pairing Terry Hee and Jessica Tan also exited in the opening round, losing in straight sets 14-21, 13-21 to world champions Seo Seung Jae and Chae Yu Jung of South Korea.

Fresh from their battles at the Singapore Badminton Open, the Singapore shuttlers will next travel to the Indonesia Open, which commences on June 4, before heading to Sydney for the Australian Open on June 11.

On the horizon, the prestigious Paris Olympic Games await where Singapore’s badminton contingent will be represented by Loh (men’s singles), Yeo (women’s singles), and the husband-and-wife duo Terry Hee and Jessica Tan (mixed doubles).