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Only teenagers remain for Singapore in Asian Games badminton q-finals

HANGZHOU – Former junior world No. 1s Nge Joo Jie and Johann Prajogo are the last Singaporeans standing in the Asian Games badminton competition, after the 106th-ranked men’s doubles pair cruised past unranked Nepalese Jivan Acharya and Bishnu Katuwal 21-11, 21-4 on Wednesday to progress to the quarter-finals.

Their reward is a showdown against India’s world No. 2 Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty at the Binjiang Gymnasium on Thursday, though it will be a tall order for them to reach the semi-finals and claim a historic doubles bronze. Singapore had previously won only a women’s team bronze from Doha 2006.

Prajogo said: “We are excited to play against a top pair, we will give it our all and see how it goes. There’s no pressure because we are absolutely the underdogs.

Nge added: “Tomorrow’s opponents are hard to break down, so today we tried to emphasise more on shot placement to move our opponents around and make things uncomfortable for them, which we will try to replicate tomorrow.”

The Republic’s other badminton players were shown the exit in the round of 16 on Wednesday. Though for 20 minutes Yeo Jia Min silenced the partisan crowd in the 3,000-seater venue as the world No. 22 took the first game against China’s Olympic champion Chen Yufei.

Despite not having won a game in three previous encounters, Yeo refused to be overawed by the occasion.

In the closing stages of the opener, she left the world No. 3 sitting on the floor before leaving her opponent rooted with a deceptive shot to make it 16-16. Yeo defended superbly and claimed the game in comical fashion when her racket slipped out of her hand, and Chen’s return went into the net.

But the home favourite prevailed eventually, clawing back to win 19-21, 21-7, 21-9 in 58 minutes to set up a last-eight meeting against South Korea’s world No. 18 Kim Ga-eun.

Yeo, 24, said: “I made fewer mistakes and she was a bit nervous in the first game. After that, I couldn’t find the lengths in my shots, that broke my momentum and I started being more impatient. I’m very disappointed I didn’t play well.

“I have been trying to improve my play and be more all-rounded so I can play against different styles but I have to be quicker to adapt to difficulties on court. I’m still not mature enough to deal with such situations and I have to work on that.”

In the men’s singles, 83rd-ranked Jason Teh put up a strong fight against Indonesia’s top seed and world No. 2 Anthony Ginting, but was ultimately outclassed 21-14, 21-18.

Teh, 23, said: “Until the first half of the second game, I couldn’t get used to the pace because I seldom face such world-class players. The quality of his shots, his speed and endurance were beyond my imagination, and I managed to adapt and find winners only later on.”

The gulf in standards also told in the mixed doubles when 30th-ranked Terry Hee and Jessica Tan lost 21-7, 21-11 to Hong Kong’s world No. 20 Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet, despite Tang having issues with her vision in the second game.

Hee said: “They were the better pair today and nothing worked for us. We tried to increase the pace but they managed to pull open the play and slow it down, which is not our game.”

Besides Commonwealth Games champions Hee and Tan, there were other notable exits as Taiwanese world No. 4 Tai Tzu-ying, the defending women’s singles champion, crashed out after losing 21-16, 21-14 to Japan’s 20th-ranked Aya Ohori.

In the men’s singles, Malaysia’s Lee Zii Jia also stunned Thailand’s world champion and world No. 4 Kunlavut Vitidsarn 10-21, 21-19, 21-6 to set up a last-eight clash with India’s seventh-ranked H.S. Prannoy.

The 16th-ranked Lee has been under fire for poor results and a spat with Malaysian media over a botched mixed zone interview last Thursday, which sparked a strongly worded response from his management team.

The 25-year-old told The Straits Times: “There was pent-up frustration and things I needed to say. I’ve said my piece and I just want to move on and do my best on the court.”

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