Loh Kean Yew falls to Thai Kunlavut Vitidsarn in Malaysia Open quarters
Loh Kean Yew suffered a fourth straight defeat by Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn on Friday, bowing out of the Malaysia Open 21-11, 20-22, 21-14 in a gruelling 80-minute quarter-final.
Kunlavut, 21, skilfully used his defensive abilities and precision to race to an 11-6 lead at the Axiata Arena, while Loh’s attempts to attack went wide or into the net, allowing the Thai world No. 9 to take the first game in 19 minutes.
It was a similar story on the restart as the SEA Games champion quickly conjured a 7-0 lead, aided by his patience and comprehensive court coverage.
But world No. 6 Loh slowly chipped away at that gap, turning up the aggression and using his signature powerful smashes and wide range of shots to frazzle Kunlavut, who appeared to have no answers for once.
Loh, 25, took the lead for the first time in the match at 15-14 with a down-the-line smash and the lead exchanged hands before Loh took the second game 22-20 after a number of intense rallies.
Both players brought their A game in the decider, with the difference in points never going beyond two until Kunlavut’s cross-court drop shot gave him an 11-8 lead at the interval.
A few mistakes from Loh allowed his opponent to widen the gap with the toll on both players evident as they collapsed on the floor for a brief respite at 19-13 after Loh’s cross-court smash went wide.
But the Thai two-time world junior champion’s patience eventually wore Loh down with the Singaporean sending a shot wide at the baseline at match point as Kunlavut celebrated with a relieved smile. The pair exchanged a hug at the net later.
The Thai, who had also defeated Loh in the SEA Games final in May and in the quarter-finals of the world championships in August, now leads their head-to-head tally 4-1. He will face either Indian world No. 8 H.S. Prannoy or Japanese world No. 7 Kodai Naraoka for a spot in the final.
The tournament continues for Singapore with women’s doubles pair Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong taking on South Koreans Baek Ha-na and Lee Yu-lim in the last eight later on Friday.