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Loh Kean Yew still finding balance between patience and aggression after semi-final run at French Open

Singapore’s top badminton player Loh Kean Yew said he is still finding a better balance between patience and aggression, after reaching the semi-finals of a Badminton World Federation (BWF) Tour competition for only the second time in 2023.

At the French Open in Paris, the world No. 9 beat home hopeful Christo Popov and Hong Kong’s Angus Ng to reach the quarter-finals, where he overcame seventh-ranked Shi Yuqi 21-17, 21-19 to avenge the previous week’s loss to the Chinese player at the same stage of the Denmark Open.

But Loh fell to a familiar foe in Indonesia’s sixth-ranked Jonatan Christie, the 2018 Asian Games champion, in the semi-finals, losing 21-18, 21-13 at the Glaz Arena in Rennes on Saturday.

Loh, who had also reached the Korea Open final in July, said: “Overall I had a pretty good week here. Jonatan is an all-rounded player and strong physically. It’s not easy playing against him.

“I’m glad that I managed to overcome some top-ranked opponents, and I hope that I can keep the consistency in my game play.

“Although I managed to have a good sensing between being patient and aggressive in some matches, I’m still learning to find a better balance.”

This is Christie’s seventh victory over Loh on the BWF World Tour, with the Singaporean yet to register a win over his South-east Asian rival in the series.

But Singapore Badminton Association technical director Martin Andrew, who described Loh’s first-round exit at the recent Asian Games as “disappointing”, is encouraged by how the Singaporean has performed in the past fortnight.

The 26-year-old has enjoyed improved performances, claiming wins over players in the top 10 in his last two tournaments in Europe, as he racks up vital ranking points for Olympic qualification.

Apart from his win over Shi, he also beat world No. 3 Kodai Naraoka and 10th-ranked Anders Antonsen in Odense.

Andrew said: “The performances have been good in Denmark and France... We learnt a fair bit from the tournaments in the run-up to them and the team has worked hard to identify and focus on some specific areas.

“He has shown that he is finding consistency in his strengths and able to put things from practice into his matches. The team has been discussing various playing styles and how to use some of the technical areas worked on over the last few months in these styles.”

With less than nine months till the Paris Olympics, Martin noted that there is still work to be done for Loh to reach his potential. His next assignment is the Kumamoto Masters in Japan from Nov 14 to 19.

Andrew said: “We will keep focusing on his game style and improving his power, agility and tactics in order to make him more difficult to beat.

“A lot of the game at this level is mental and he’s showing more toughness in this area so we will also be focusing on that.

“I still consider Kean Yew as a player that no one can be confident of beating – his level can be so high, we will be working on making that more consistent.”