Loh Kean Yew and men's doubles pair ride wave of home support into Singapore Open q-finals
The Republic's top shuttler Loh Kean Yew reached the last eight of the Singapore Badminton Open on Thursday (July 14) after staging a comeback in the second game to beat Indonesia's world No. 35 Tommy Sugiarto 21-13, 21-17 in 40 minutes.
The Singapore Indoor Stadium crowd was entertained by Loh's rallies and also light-hearted moments when the 25-year-old copped reminders from the umpire - first, to "not walk in so big circles" in between points and to thank her after the round-of-16 encounter - which drew raucous laughter from the fans.
Against Sugiarto, world No. 9 Loh lost the first point but dominated the rest of the first game with deceptive hits and body shots that bamboozled the 34-year-old.
In the second game, the Indonesian veteran, who was the men's singles champion in 2013, showed his credentials as he led from the start with a series of impressive combinations and still held the advantage at 16-13.
But the partisan crowd then helped Loh raise his game and beat Sugiarto for the first time in two attempts and advance to the quarter-finals where he will meet China's world No. 37 Li Shifeng on Friday.
This is the furthest Loh has gone in this tournament after exiting at the round of 16 in 2018.
The 25-year-old said: "I think I played quite a good game. I was trying to be patient and not rush when I was trailing, while trying to remain aggressive.
"I was walking around (in between) to catch my breath and calm myself down... I will pant even more if I just stop after a long rally. I didn't realise I was walking that long, so I apologised to her.
"But the home crowd was great again today. They were a big factor behind my win. They gave me confidence, motivated me to play better, and might also have had an effect on my opponent as the pressure built when I was catching up."
Loh's chances of becoming the first Singaporean men's singles player to win the home open since Wee Choon Seng in 1962 increased after two more seeds fell yesterday.
Taiwanese third seed Chou Tien-chen lost 14-21, 22-20, 21-18 to India's Prannoy H. S. while Indonesia's fifth seed Jonatan Christie was beaten by Japan's Kodai Naraoka 7-21, 21-18, 21-15.
Despite being just one of two seeds remaining in his event, Loh said: "(The fallen seeds) are not on my side of the draw and in any case, there are no easy opponents. I will still need to go 100 per cent and focus all the way in every match."
The other remaining men's singles seed - Indonesia's fifth seed Anthony Ginting - overcame nosebleed to see off Chinese Taipei's Lin Chun-yi 21-12, 19-21, 21-16.
The Tokyo 2020 bronze medallist said: "I don't know why my nose bled but I'm feeling okay, and the key to winning today was to not be in a hurry, and try to attack him first.
"I feel everyone has the same chance to win this competition. Hopefully, I can win it, but it will not be easy to get this title."
In the men's doubles, world No. 48 Terry Hee and Loh Kean Hean also rode the wave of home support into the last eight, after they beat Malaysia's 69th-ranked Junaidi Arif and Haikal Muhammad 21-9, 21-17 in 30 minutes.
They will meet the in-form Indonesian world No. 5 duo Fajar Alfian and Rian Ardianto, whom they have not beaten in four meetings.
Kean Hean, older brother of Kean Yew, said: "It is a good feeling to have the fans cheering for us, which helped us play our best against relatively junior opponents."
Hee added: "We will need their support again tomorrow. Their standard is higher than us, but we will try our best to challenge them and cause an upset."
There were also upsets in the various events as Tokyo 2020 men's doubles champions Lee Yang and Wang Chi-lin were beaten 21-18, 21-23, 21-14 by China's He Jiting and Zhou Haodong, while India's London 2012 women's singles bronze medallist Saina Nehwal rolled back the years to beat China's fifth seed He Bingjiao 21-19, 11-21, 21-17.
But Singapore's Yeo Jia Min lost to Thailand's sixth seed Pornpawee Chochuwong 16-21, 21-15, 21-11 in 58 minutes.
The world No. 18 said: "I made more errors from the second game onwards, especially at the rear court where I was hitting a lot of clear-outs. She did a better job at controlling the shuttle, and at the crucial points, I was not able to maintain the pressure and the gap widened because of my mistakes.
"The positives are that I was confident going into the match, I wasn't afraid of her attack and speed. I have been trying to improve mentally and physically, and I feel my condition is getting better."