Loh Kean Yew falls to Malaysia’s Lee in Denmark Open semi-final
The ninth instalment of badminton’s Causeway derby between two of the game’s hottest rising stars ended in disappointment for Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew, as he lost 21-18, 21-15 to Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia in 40 minutes in the Denmark Open semi-final on Saturday.
World No. 3 Lee will go on to meet China’s 44th-ranked Shi Yuqi, who defeated Japan’s 24th-ranked Kodai Naraoka 21-15, 9-21, 24-22 in the other semi-final.
World No. 5 Loh, on the other hand, will have to be content with a cheque for US$10,500 (S$14,900).
Kedah-born Lee is friends with Loh, who was born in Penang and is a year older at 25. The duo are also seasoned rivals, often facing off in junior tournaments before the latter moved to Singapore when he was 13.
Both have since done well in their professional careers, with Loh claiming a historic crown at the 2021 World Championships, while Lee snagged the 2021 All England Open and 2022 Asia Championships titles en route to their career-high world rankings now.
A week before this event, both had trained with Denmark’s world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen in his home country before Loh knocked out the Olympic and world champion in the quarter-finals to set up a tantalising semi-final tie between two of the circuit’s most explosive players.
Long rallies were at a premium, and with the shuttlecocks playing “super fast” at this tournament, shuttle control was key and it looked like the Singaporean settled down faster to establish a 7-2 lead in the first game.
But Lee came back swiftly with superb net play to make it 12-12. The turning point came two points later when the umpire ruled that Loh’s racket had crossed the net and instead of 13-13, Lee led 14-12 and went on to see out the opener.
The second game followed a similar vein with Loh leading 3-0 early on and Lee rebounding to build a 13-8 advantage. Fighting for his life, Loh drew level at 14-14 but eventually ran out of steam with several unforced errors.
With the win, Lee is unbeaten against Loh in 2022 with three victories to extend his head-to-head advantage to 7-2, as Loh will now turn his attention to the Oct 25-30 French Open.