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Loh Kean Yew wins Badminton World Championships opener, eases into round of 32

With minimal fuss in 28 minutes, Loh Kean Yew got past his first hurdle at the Badminton World Federation World Championships on Monday when he beat world No. 85 Pablo Abian 21-12, 21-9.

The Singaporean, who had also comfortably dispatched the same opponent in the first round at the 2022 edition, imposed his superiority against the 38-year-old Spaniard from the start, winning points quickly and via rallies that went up to 45 shots.

Even as Loh had to adapt to the “tricky” wind conditions inside Copenhagen’s Royal Arena, the gulf between them – Loh won the 2021 world title while Abian was the 2015 European champion – became more obvious as the match wore on.

The seventh-ranked Loh next faces Azerbaijan’s world No. 75 Ade Dwicahyo in Wednesday’s round of 32. The 2022 quarter-finalist is likely to face home favourite and defending champion Viktor Axelsen in the last eight.

He told The Straits Times: “It’s always good to win and this was a good run-out against an experienced opponent.

“The world championships bring back many fond memories, but I am also aware how hungry every player is at such a prestigious tournament.

“I just want to focus on one match at a time and try to advance as far as I can.”

Loh’s 2023 form has been patchy. He reached the finals of the Asian Championships and Korea Open but suffered first-round exits at the All England Open, Malaysia Masters, Japan Open and Australian Open.

National singles coach Kelvin Ho was pleased with Loh’s performance on Monday after working with him on his shot quality and consistency, as well as stability in his movement.

He said: “Today, Kean Yew was focused and could link his shots well. He was ready to run and was early for his shot, and will need to keep these up as he progresses.”

Meanwhile, Indonesian Anthony Ginting, whose mother Lucia Sriati died earlier in August, has withdrawn. The world No. 2 was in the bottom half of the draw.

Singapore’s world No. 98 Jason Teh was due to face Czech Republic’s 40th-ranked Jan Louda. The result was unavailable at press time.

The Republic’s Insyirah Khan (women’s singles), Loh Kean Hean and Andy Kwek (men’s doubles), Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong (women’s doubles) and Terry Hee and Jessica Tan (mixed doubles) all begin their campaign on Tuesday.

After a first-round walkover over Frenchwoman Qi Xuefei, world No. 22 Yeo Jia Min will meet Indonesia’s eighth-ranked Gregoria Tunjung on Wednesday.

Singapore Badminton Association technical director Martin Andrew said: “The expectation on our top singles players is to perform at their best level.

“Kean Yew can do well if he finds his best level, while Jia Min has been performing well recently and will be a challenge for the top players.

“We also want our second singles Jason and Insyirah to find their best levels.

“We have difficult draws for our doubles pairs, but we have prepared well. We hope they can make things interesting with some upsets.”

The tournament’s first big upset came from Malaysia’s out-of-form world No. 13 Lee Zii Jia, who beat Indonesia’s fifth-ranked Jonatan Christie 21-13, 21-15.

There were straightforward wins for Japan’s former world No. 1 Nozomi Okuhara, Chinese Taipei’s Chou Tien-chen, Thai star Kunlavut Vitidsarn, China’s Li Shifeng as well as India’s top singles duo H.S. Prannoy and Lakshya Sen.