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Singapore badminton gets shot at World Tour Finals qualification

World No. 3 Loh Kean Yew has been handed an easier first-round draw at the Nov 15-20 Australian Open, after his opponent – India’s 45th-ranked Mithun Manjunath – withdrew and was replaced by Australia’s world No. 426 Low Pit Seng.

Loh needs only to beat Low on Wednesday to be assured of a place in the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour Finals, which is for the top eight performers in the singles and doubles categories.

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

It said in a statement: “BWF in consultation with the Chinese Badminton Association agreed to relocate the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2022 due to the various challenges brought about by the current pandemic situation.”

Loh could be joined by mixed doubles pair Terry Hee and Jessica Tan, who can squeeze into the top eight in the qualification rankings if they win the Australian Open. They are currently 12th.

On Tuesday, they got past the first hurdle by beating world No. 38 Taiwanese duo Lee Jhe-huei and Hsu Ya-ching 21-10, 21-16. They will meet South Korea’s 22nd-ranked Seo Seung-jae and Chae Yu-jung in the second round.

Tan said: “We are aware of the equation, but it actually doesn’t help that people are coming to tell us about it. In a way, it’s extra motivation, but in another way, it’s added pressure.

“We allowed that to negatively affect our performance in Europe already and we hope not to repeat it here. Regardless of the results, we just want to focus on our performances match by match. If we can qualify for the World Tour Finals, then it’s a bonus. If not, then maybe it’s not meant to be this time.”

The Republic is also represented at the Australian Open by 20th-ranked women’s singles player Yeo Jia Min, who faces Taiwanese world No. 34 Pai Yu-po and 51st-ranked women’s doubles duo Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong, who play local pair and world No. 441 Sylvina Kurniawan and Poon Lok Yan on Wednesday.

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