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Loh Kean Yew is first Singaporean man to reach World Tour Finals

Loh Kean Yew’s 21-10, 21-9 first-round win over Australia’s 427th-ranked Low Pit Seng at the Australian Open on Wednesday might have been routine, but it was a seismic victory in the grander scheme of things for the Singaporean world No. 3.

His 26-minute victory at the Quay Centre in Sydney was enough to seal his passage to the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour Finals, making him the first Singaporean man to qualify for the prestigious season-ender.

The World Tour Finals features the year’s eight best performers in the singles and doubles. In 2021, team-mate Yeo Jiamin became the first player from the Republic to achieve the same feat.

It has been another breakthrough year for 2021 world champion Loh, who will play Indonesia’s world No. 23 Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo or China’s 27th-ranked Li Shifeng in the second round of the Australian Open on Thursday.

In his first year of gaining access to all of the top-tiered events on the World Tour, the newly crowned Sportsman of the Year has yet to win a tournament. However, he made it to at least the quarter-finals in 11 out of 15 events (seven out of 11 on the World Tour) and the consistency has helped in his pursuit of the Finals ticket.

He currently occupies the seventh spot among the top eight in the World Tour Finals qualification rankings. These may not correspond with the world rankings, that may still take in results from the previous year.

The other men’s singles players to have made the cut are Denmark’s world and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen, Taiwanese Chou Tien-chen, India’s H. S. Prannoy, Indonesians Jonatan Christie and Anthony Sinisuka Ginting and Japan’s Kodai Naraoka.

The last spot will go to China’s Lu Guangzu or Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia, who are drawn to face each other in the second round in Australia should they advance. That means only one of them stands a chance of overtaking Loh.

Meanwhile, Loh could still be joined by compatriots Terry Hee and Jessica Tan at the Finals.

With numerous top mixed doubles players opting not to head Down Under, the path is open for the Singaporean Commonwealth Games champions to squeeze into the top eight of the Finals qualification rankings. They are currently 12th.

To do so, they need to win the Australian Open to secure enough points to overtake four pairs currently in front of them. They play South Korea’s 22nd-ranked Seo Seung-jae and Chae Yu-jung in the second round on Thursday.

On Tuesday, the BWF announced that its US$1.5 million (S$2.05 million) Finals have been moved from Guangzhou, China to Bangkok, Thailand. The dates have also been brought forward from Dec 14-18 to Dec 7-11.

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