Loh Kean Yew defends home pride at Singapore Open
World champion Loh Kean Yew is the last local player standing at the Singapore Badminton Open, after he beat China's Li Shi Feng 21-15, 21-18 in 49 minutes on Friday (July 15) to make it to the men's singles semi-finals.
The 25-year-old is bidding to become the first Singaporean to reach the men's singles final of his home open since Ronald Susilo lost to Chen Hong in 2002 - Wee Choon Seng was the last Singaporean to win the event in 1962.
Standing in his way in Saturday's semi-final is Indonesia's world No. 6 Anthony Ginting, who eased past Malaysia's 47th-ranked Ng Tze Yong 21-15, 21-12 but has not beaten Loh in two previous encounters.
World No. 9 Loh may be known for his ferocious smashes, but it was his defence that stood out against Li, as he wowed the crowd with gritty, last-ditch saves.
He said: "Li Shi Feng is a very good net player, very aggressive, and I had to raise my defensive game today and find a good balance between that while staying aggressive myself.
"I'm also quite looking forward to know how I will defend tomorrow (against an equally fast and aggressive Ginting).
"I'm thankful for the home support which made the atmosphere so special. The pressure is definitely there, and it's up to me to learn how to manage this, and I hope I can perform and win (again)."
The other semi-final will be contested by China's Zhao Junpeng and Japan's Kodai Naraoka, who are both aiming to win their first title on the Badminton World Federation World Tour.
The men's doubles semi-finals will be all-Indonesian affairs. World No. 3 Hendra Setiawan and Mohammad Ahsan will face 23rd-ranked Leo Rolly Carnando and Daniel Marthin, while world No. 5 Fajar Alfian and Rian Ardianto will meet 72nd-ranked Sabar Karyaman Gutama and Moh Reza Pahlevi.
Fajar and Rian overcame Singapore's world No. 48 Terry Hee and Loh Kean Hean 16-21, 21-15, 21-15 in an exhilarating 52-minute battle to extend their perfect record to five wins.
Kean Hean said: "They have good presence in the front and mid-court and are able to change the direction of the shuttlecock at will, which we can still learn from."
Hee added: "Indonesia proved they are doubles powerhouses with a big base and a good development pipeline. We tried to keep up in a match of high standard in terms of speed and flow, and just lost out on focus and consistency. We have no regrets and will try to break our duck against them soon."
There was also drama in the women's singles quarter-finals, as India's world No. 7 P. V. Sindhu beat China's Han Yue 17-21, 21-11, 21-19 with a successful Hawk-Eye challenge at match point to set up a meeting with Japan's 38th-ranked Saena Kawakami.
She said: "The challenge was very important and a big comfort to myself that I kept one challenge to the end because in the previous games I finished them off early.
"I was 90 per cent it was just out, but you'll never know for sure because the drift may just make it land just on the line. Until it was zoomed in, you couldn't tell it was out and of course, I was praying for it to be out."
The other women's singles semi-final sees Japan's world No. 30 Aya Ohori play China's 11th-ranked Wang Zhiyi, who was amused to see for the first time fans improvising and dropping down a jersey on a string from the stands for her to sign.
She said: "Since the fans made such an effort, I felt I also need to reciprocate, and I will also try to prepare for difficult situations in my next match."
In the women's doubles semi-finals, Du Yue and Li Wen Mei will meet compatriots Zhang Shu Xian and Zheng Yu, while Indonesia's Apriyani Rahayu and Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti will play Thailand's Supissara Paewsampran and Puttita Supajirakul.
In the mixed doubles last four, Thailand's world champions Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai will play Malaysia's Goh Soon Huat and Jemie Lai, while Olympic champions Wang Yi Lyu and Huang Dong Ping take on fellow Chinese pair Guo Xin Wa and Zhang.