Singapore beat hosts England to top mixed team group in badminton
BIRMINGHAM - Up against hosts England amid the roars of a partisan crowd of around 2,000 on Saturday (July 30), Singapore needed a big win in their Group G match to land a better shot at a mixed team badminton medal at the Commonwealth Games.
And the Singaporean shuttlers did just that, notching a hard-earned 4-1 victory to top the group and avoid big guns like India and Malaysia in the quarter-finals on Sunday.
Instead they will face runners-up from the other groups - either South Africa (Group A), Sri Lanka (Group D), Canada or Scotland (Group C).
Ahead of their encounter, England appeared to have the upper hand in the three doubles fixtures, while Singapore - with world champion Loh Kean Yew in the squad - were stronger in the two singles.
But in front of home fans armed with shrill whistles inside National Exhibition Centre's Hall 5, husband-and-wife duo Terry Hee and Jessica Tan turned the tie on its head by stunning England's own golden couple Marcus Ellis and Lauren Smith 21-9, 21-15 in the mixed doubles opener.
The world No. 36 Singaporeans were not overawed by the occasion nor the difference in rankings as they played aggressively against their 11th-ranked opponents from the start to put the English pair on the back foot throughout.
Hee, who soldiered on despite rolling his ankle in the second game, said: "Surely, we all want to start well and take down the first match, but perhaps the opponents were under more pressure to perform in front of their home crowd."
Tan added: "From the first point, we were very focused as we had prepared for a tough match against this higher-ranked pair whom we have not beaten before, and we are pleased with how we played."
Loh took inspiration from his teammates' blistering start and breezed past 55th-ranked Toby Penty 21-12, 21-12 in the ensuing men's singles tie.
Described by Penty as a "bouncing ball", the world No. 9 said: "Terry and Jessica's win earlier definitely gave me confidence and helped to release some tension ahead of my match.
"Toby and I are good friends off the court and know each other very well. He is a tall leftie, has a very good defence and it wasn't easy to kill him off in rallies."
World No. 19 Yeo Jia Min then gave Singapore an unassailable overall lead that confirmed their group winners status after she beat 150th-ranked Freya Redfearn 21-4, 21-8.
She said: "Hopefully, this good win helps us build momentum going into the knockout rounds. Avoiding the stronger teams is helpful perhaps in terms of conserving some energy, but we will have to meet them eventually and I have confidence in our team.
"Our team spirit is high, and our cheers for one another are getting louder by the day. I could even hear them from the warm-up hall, and we are highly motivated to do well."
World No. 19 Ben Lane and Sean Vendy restored some pride when they beat Loh Kean Hean and Hee 19-21, 21-12, 21-18 in the men's doubles, before 82nd-ranked women's doubles pair Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong upset world No. 14 Chloe Birch and Smith 21-19, 21-17.
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