Loh Kean Yew falls short in Badminton Asia C’ships final, losing to Indonesian world No. 2
There are not many badminton players in the world quicker than Loh Kean Yew.
Unfortunately for the world No. 7 Singaporean, he ran into one of them in the Badminton Asia Championships men’s singles final as he lost 21-12, 21-8 to Indonesia’s world No. 2 Anthony Sinisuka Ginting on Sunday.
While 2021 world champion Loh could not become just the ninth men’s singles player to win both world and Asian titles, his silver medal is still the Republic’s best result after three previous bronzes at the continental showpiece.
Despite the one-sided defeat that lasted 28 minutes, Loh is expected to return to the top five in the world rankings.
Looking back, he will be encouraged by his first final since losing the SEA Games men’s singles gold medal to Kunlavut Vitidsarn in 2022. He will now turn his attention to the upcoming edition in Cambodia, where he will play in only the men’s team event, and the Sudirman Cup in May, when the Olympic qualifying period also starts.
The 25-year-old said: “Overall, it is a good week, but I’m disappointed with my own game while Ginting played a very good game today.
“There’s a lot to work on and hopefully I can get better. I don’t know how I’ll perform at the SEA Games and Sudirman Cup but I know I’ll give my all for sure.”
Regardless, his first Asia Championships final was an anti-climax considering how Loh had roared to life at the Sheikh Rashid Bin Hamdan Indoor Hall in Dubai.
He had taken apart India’s Lakshya Sen (24th), Jordan’s Bahaedeen Ahmad Alshannik (102nd), Hong Kong’s Lee Cheuk Yiu (20th) and China’s Lu Guangzu (14th) in straight sets in under 45 minutes.
But the tables were turned against a more formidable foe who has now beaten him four matches on the trot since losing their first two encounters.
Ginting’s game plan may sound simple – prevent Loh from unleashing his 400kmh smashes – but it took a masterclass to execute it and win his first Asian title.
The 26-year-old Olympic bronze medallist started off by playing more to Loh’s backhand, and produced clears that tempted Loh to let them land only to see them drop right in the corners.
Anxious to find a way back into the game, Loh dumped several returns into the net, while Ginting also covered the court and read his opponent well to be well placed to deliver his own killer smashes.
National singles coach Kelvin Ho said: “Our plan today was to play a high-speed game and create attacking opportunities. But Ginting’s acceleration was very fast today and he kept the initiative so Kean Yew could not unleash his weapons or control the shuttle well.
“The positive thing is for most of the week, Kean Yew was able to find his momentum to play his game with the additional skills we were working on to make him more complete.
“He still has work to do on his skills, his control, how he maintains his acceleration to support his gameplay, and different styles to play with different opponents.”
Meanwhile, Taiwanese world No. 4 Tai Tzu-ying claimed her third Asian crown and denied South Korean world No. 2 An Se-young her first with a 21-10, 21-14 victory.
In the women’s doubles final, Japan’s Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota cruised past South Koreans Baek Ha-na and Lee So-hee 21-7, 21-14. Indian pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty shocked Malaysians Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi 16-21, 21-17, 21-19 in the mens’ doubles final.
There was also a surprise in the mixed doubles final as China’s world No. 1 Zheng Siwei and Huang Yaqiong lost for only the second time in 2023, falling 21-15, 21-16 to compatriots Jiang Zhenbang and Wei Yaxin.