Badminton: S'pore's Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min recharged for World Champs, Latest Team Singapore News - The New Paper
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Badminton: S'pore's Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min recharged for World Champs

Although it was a mere four days of layover in Singapore before he flew off for Spain on Tuesday (Dec 7) night, national shuttler Loh Kean Yew feels recharged and ready for the Dec 12-19 BWF World Championships in Huelva.

He told The Straits Times: "After being away for three months, I caught up with my friends over the weekend, and it was a good and important break from badminton.

"I went back to training for a few hours the next two days because there's still one big assignment ahead."

Loh's unfinished business for the year is the World Championships, where he will face world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen in the first round.

Asked for his reaction to what many would consider an unfortunate draw, the 24-year-old Singaporean quipped cheekily: "I like to be the underdog lah, but why always him?"

But he added quickly: "I'm not surprised to meet highly seeded players in the early rounds anymore. It always happens to me, so I'll just go out and play to the best of my ability."

Such single-mindedness has enabled him to climb up the world rankings - he is now 22nd, up from 41st just eight weeks ago - by creating multiple upsets on the Badminton World Federation World Tour.

Besides capturing the Dutch Open and Hylo Open titles, he also claimed the scalps of Japan's then-world No. 1 Kento Momota (Indonesia Open), Malaysia's world No. 7 and All England champion Lee Zii Jia (French Open) and Chinese Taipei's world No. 4 Chou Tien-chen (Hylo Open).

However, he has yet to beat Olympic champion Axelsen in four attempts, which include a straight-game loss in the Denmark Open's first round and a three-game defeat in the Indonesia Open final.

Adding to the intrigue is the fact that the duo are good friends, with the Dane inviting Loh and four other top-60 players to train with him in Dubai for a month after the Olympics, which allowed them more insight into one another's games.

"Secret," was the reply when asked what strategy Loh would adopt against Axelsen, although national singles coach Kelvin Ho advised finding a balance between being pro-active and patient.

Loh is joined by Yeo Jia Min in the women's singles. She too is projected to meet the world No. 1 in her draw.

Ho said: "In the past few days, we have worked with both our players on their explosive endurance, which is most important for matches, and the polishing of their on-court skills.

"Jia Min will need to keep up her fighting spirit and motivation, and be prepared to fight hard from the start."

Yeo, 22, who is up to a career-high world No. 16, has received a first-round bye and will play either Scotland's world No. 21 Kirsty Gilmour or Japan's world No. 24 Aya Ohori in the round of 32. If she wins, she could face top-ranked Taiwanese Tai Tzu-ying for a place in the quarter-finals.

But like Loh, Yeo also boasts an ability to surprise. She shocked Japan's then-world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi in the second round of the 2019 World Championships en route to a top-eight finish.

Yeo, who became the first Singaporean to feature at the season-ending BWF World Tour Finals earlier this month but retired in her second match with a knee injury, said: "I was so happy and recharged to be able to see my family and team-mates, and my knee is getting better.

"I believe anything can happen so I will just take it one match at a time and do my best."

Loh Kean YewYeo Jia MinbadmintonWORLD CHAMPIONSHIPS