Loh Kean Yew falls at first hurdle of All England Open
Loh Kean Yew’s slow start to the year continues with a sixth defeat in 12 matches as the top Singapore badminton player lost 21-16, 16-21, 21-7 to China’s world No. 13 Zhao Junpeng in the opening round of the All England Open men’s singles event on Tuesday.
This second loss in five encounters against Zhao comes barely a week after the world No. 8 was beaten by Japan’s 15th-ranked Kenta Nishimoto in three games in the second round of the German Open.
Loh told The Straits Times: “Many things went wrong today. I know I’m not at my best condition, but ups and downs are normal for an athlete.
“I’m more concerned about my performances than the slow start. There are many things I need to work on for sure, and I will need time to bounce back again, but I cannot say for sure how long it will take.”
To put things in perspective, the 25-year-old also fell at the first hurdle at the 2022 All England Open but climbed to a career-high world No. 3 in the same year.
But it is also true that Loh has been struggling to find his groove since he won the world championship in 2021, as he is still searching for a first title since his historic achievement.
Singapore Badminton Association technical director Martin Andrew acknowledged the pickle Loh is in, but is not unduly worried despite the Olympic qualification window opening in May.
The “Paris Ranking Lists” – which is separate from the world rankings – will be used to award quota places in the five events at the Olympics, and each list will be based on results achieved from May 1, 2023 to April 28, 2024.
Andrew said: “Kean Yew made too many errors today, many of them seemingly while not under too much pressure.
“At the moment, he is finding it difficult to change game plans tactically while integrating things we are working on in practice.
“We are working on a number of developments to his game which are taking time to implement in matches, but it’s the right time to be doing this before we move into the Olympic qualification period.”
Besides Loh, other Singaporeans who are competing at the Utilita Arena in Birmingham include Yeo Jia Min, who is up against China’s Han Yue in the women’s singles, and Terry Hee and Jessica Tan, who play Thailand’s Supak
Jomkoh and Supissara Paewsampran in the mixed doubles.