Yeo Jia Min, flu-ridden Loh Kean Yew miss out on Indonesia Open q-finals
The Republic’s top badminton players Loh Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min were pushed to the brink in the round of 16 of the US$1.25 million (S$1.68m) Indonesia Open on Thursday, before they were ultimately eliminated.
Struggling with fever, flu and sore throat, a gasping Loh ran out of steam and crashed out of the men’s singles after losing 21-19, 21-14 to China’s world No. 10 Li Shifeng in 44 minutes at the Istora Gelora Bung Karno in Jakarta.
Li, 23, had not beaten Loh, 25, in four previous encounters, but the Chinese player has seen his profile soar since winning the All England Open in March.
World No. 5 Loh seemed to have an edge with his net play and smash combinations as he looked to hold on to a slender lead after the interval. But as Li raised his game to push Loh around the court, the unforced errors started to creep in for the Singaporean, who lost the opener after a drop shot went into the net and a return flew long.
Loh drew on his reserves to turn a 7-1 deficit into a 12-11 lead in the second game, but he was spent by then.
Li grabbed his breakthrough win to move into Friday’s quarter-finals, where he will meet India’s Kidambi Srikanth, while Loh returns home with US$3,750.
Loh said: “It sucks to catch the flu before such a big tournament and I can only try my best. I really gave it my all today. My body already felt like it was breaking yesterday (in his win over Indonesia’s Chico Wardoyo) and today I felt like I have no more strength.
“I haven’t had much time to rest and recover in general, so I hope to be able to do so in the coming weeks, work on my game, and come back stronger.”
In the women’s singles, world No. 28 Yeo fell just short of an upset and a first win in four attempts over Spain’s former Olympic and world champion Carolina Marin, losing 26-24, 23-21 after an hour-long battle of fitness and style.
Marin’s speed and power helped her build an 18-13 lead in the opener but with patient rallies and high-quality returns, Yeo saved three game points to take it to deuce. However, she was not able to get her nose in front and world No. 6 Marin took the first game.
The second game followed a similar vein, as Marin led 15-10 and 19-17. But Yeo kept fighting and even earned a game point.
But the Spaniard’s experience and quality won out on her 30th birthday, as she earned a quarter-final spot against Taiwanese world No. 3 Tai Tzu-ying.
Yeo, 24, said: “I had a good game plan and counter-attacking chances today, but there are still parts of my game that are lacking. During the crucial moments, I was not making smart choices, and I lost my chance to win the match.”
National singles coach Kelvin Ho shared that both players will not be featuring in the upcoming tournaments in Chinese Taipei, Canada and the United States, which will allow them to work on their game before the July 18-23 Korea Open.
He added: “Jia Min played well in terms of speed and movement, but still needs to add shot variation, and improve on her awareness and anticipation to her opponent’s shots and position.
“Kean Yew fought on despite his illness, but we still need to work on his consistency. He wasn’t linking his shots as well as he is capable of and threw away points too easily.”