OUE Singapore Open 2017

Badminton: Yeo Jia Min unfazed at flying solo

Teenager Yeo Jia Min stretching for a return against Indonesia's Lyanna Alessandra Mainaky in their qualifier. The 18-year-old will next take on South Korea's Kim Hyo Min.
Teenager Yeo Jia Min stretching for a return against Indonesia's Lyanna Alessandra Mainaky in their qualifier. The 18-year-old will next take on South Korea's Kim Hyo Min.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

She's the only local in singles main draws, while Olympic mixed doubles champs lose

Just a day before the start of the tournament, Yeo Jia Min was down with a fever, downing fluids at home in an attempt to kick the flu, unsure how her body aches would carry her through her OUE Singapore Open campaign.

The Singapore shuttler shook off the flu bug in time - and kept her opponents in the qualifiers yesterday at bay - earning a berth in the main draw of the Superseries event for the first time in her fledgling career.

She won both her matches, first sweeping aside Jesica Muljati of Indonesia 21-12, 21-18 before beating another Indonesian, Lyanna Alessandra Mainaky, 21-19, 21-18.

Fleet-footed and spot on with her shot placement, the world No. 2 junior hardly looked off colour.

Said the 18-year-old, who will play South Korea's Kim Hyo Min today: "I started off quite well but I later got confused about my rhythm. But I tried to keep my calm and focus and make sure I maintained a good position."

So unaware of the fact that a first appearance in the main draw of her home event was at stake, that Yeo only realised she would be flying the flag alone in the singles events after being reminded in her post-match interview.

She said: "I didn't think too much about what would happen if I won or if I lost, just concentrated more on my game play."

Team-mates Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han, competing in the mixed doubles main draw, also scored a win.

The world No. 15s had looked like they were on course for a rubber after trailing 13-18, then 16-19 against their Indonesian opponents Ronald Ronald and Melati Daeva Oktavianti in the second game.

But a strong rally took them to a 21-19, 22-20 victory.

Said Hee: "I thought that we had nothing to lose in that game, so just told each other to try to win as many points as possible and get ready for a third game if need be.

"I think our opponents lost a bit of confidence after we fought back, while ours got stronger."

Confidence will come in handy for their next tie, when they play China's Lu Kai and Huang Yaqiong, a duo recently crowned champions at the All England Open.

Said Tan: "We are the underdogs in that match. They're much more experienced than us and they hardly make any errors.

"Even though it will be hard, we'll be counting on home ground support," she added, noting that it was home backing which made a big difference in their win yesterday.

Their other team-mates suffered losses in the qualifiers, although Crystal Wong and Ong Ren-Ne posted a creditable performance against China's Bao Yixin and Yu Xiaohan.

The Singaporean duo, ranked No. 103 in the world, came agonisingly close to beating their much more experienced opponents placed 68 rungs above them, after opening up a 17-14 lead in the decider.

However, the pair - a new partnership that started just in January - eventually lost 21-19, 10-21, 19-21.

Said Wong, 17: "It's quite a pity that we weren't able to win but we played better than expected."

Added Ong, 19: "This gives us confidence that we can match up to top players in the world and is good preparation for the SEA Games in August."

The biggest upset of the day came when reigning Olympic champions Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir were booted out in the first round.

While the Indonesian pair have won this event thrice before (2011, 2013, 2014), they were no match for Thailand's Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, losing 14-21, 16-21.

Said Liliyana, who has been struggling with a knee injury since last November's China Open: "I haven't been able to recover and I was reluctant to take certain shots today."

Added Tontowi: "We didn't play well today and our communication wasn't great. By the time I got my momentum, it was already too late to catch up."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 12, 2017, with the headline 'Jia Min unfazed at flying solo'. Print Edition | Subscribe