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Loh Kean Yew gets kind draw for Singapore Open, will meet a seed only in semis

KUALA LUMPUR - World champion Loh Kean Yew has been handed a favourable draw for the Singapore Badminton Open (SBO) after second seed Anders Antonsen pulled out of the event to deal with an injury.

Organisers released the draw on Friday (July 1) and with the Danish world No. 3's withdrawal, world No. 9 Loh will not face a seeded player until the semi-finals.

He will face France's Brice Leverdez in the first round of the July 12-17 tournament, before possibly meeting Indonesia's Tommy Sugiarto, who beat Loh in their only other clash at the 2019 Australian Open.

But to be crowned the first Singaporean men's singles champion since Wee Chon Seng in 1962, Loh will likely have to get past Indonesian world No. 6 Anthony Ginting in the semi-finals before a possible final against world No. 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen, who headlines the other half of the draw.

The last Singaporean player who reached the men's singles final at home was Ronald Susilo in 2002. Then, he lost to China's Chen Hong.

Loh is also relishing the chance to compete in front of a home crowd again after the Singapore Open was not held in the last two years because of the pandemic.

The 25-year-old said: "It has been two years since the last SBO and I still remember the thrill of having the home crowd behind me."

With event organisers expecting a record crowd of over 6,000, Loh is hoping that he "can give them something to celebrate".

Loh has played Leverdez in only one other encounter, at the 2019 Thailand Masters semi-finals, which he won 14-21, 21-10, 21-14 en route to winning the tournament.

However, for now, he also keeping his feet on the ground, having suffered a first-round exit at the ongoing Malaysia Open, where he lost 21-19, 21-12 to Hong Kong's Lee Cheuk Yiu on Tuesday.

He said: "Although the results could have been better, I feel I am slowly getting back to my best after spending some time out with Covid in March.

"The next few weeks will be a busy period, with four tournaments in a month. It will be a good test for me and I look forward to the challenge."

A star-studded field will be in action at the Singapore Indoor Stadium, including Chinese women's singles Olympic champion Chen Yufei and Chinese Taipei's world No. 2 Tai Tzu-ying, who triumphed at Kallang in 2019 and 2017.

India's 2019 world champion P. V. Sindhu and Thai world No. 8 Ratchanok Intanon will also feature in Singapore.

Tai, who is also the top seed, said: "I got my first title in Singapore, it's a place that is full of memories. I am happy that I can go back to Singapore, a meaningful country to me, after so many years."