SINGAPORE - For four years, he made the daily commute across the Causeway from his Johor Bahru home to study in Singapore. As such, the Republic's shuttler Jason Teh is no stranger to going the distance.
That quality helped the 21-year-old prevail in two marathon qualifying matches on Tuesday (July 12) to reach the main draw of the US$370,000 (S$512,000) Singapore Badminton Open.
Playing the first match of the day at 9am, the world No. 90 outlasted Denmark's 62nd-ranked Victor Svendsen over 67 minutes to win 24-26, 21-18, 21-14 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
Less than two hours later, after wolfing down a packet of economic rice and a banana, he was back to beat Malaysia's world No. 73 Cheam June Wei 27-29, 21-19, 23-21 in 74 minutes, incredibly saving seven match points from 20-13 down.
After playing 264 points to progress to the first round on his first attempt, Teh did not collapse to the ground, but stood tall to pump his fist and salute the raucous home crowd.
"Tired lah, but I can deal with it," he told The Straits Times.
"Ever since I joined the national team at 17, I have been seeing the senior players playing in the Singapore Open. So, to be able to qualify for the main draw in front of my father and older sister and local fans is something special. I'm extra motivated and don't want to disappoint my supporters."
Born in Penang, Teh started playing badminton when he was four. He moved to Singapore to study when he was 11 and eventually enrolled in the Singapore Sports School.
So eager was he to play professionally, he stopped school after Secondary 4 to enlist for national service so that he could complete it as soon as possible and resume full-time training.
"Singapore Sports School's systematic training convinced me to make badminton my career, and I wanted to do whatever I could to go as far as I can, said Teh.
While his potential is affirmed by the national selectors, as well as top-four finishes at lower-tier events in Poland, Czech Republic and Bahrain last year, it has been a rougher ride this year as he found himself throwing away good leads to lose matches.
He said: "I have been dealing with this problem since the Korea Open in April, and struggling with confidence and conditioning issues since. Today, I thought I was going to lose like this again but I just tried to focus on the rallies and I'm happy to find a breakthrough."
Teh will meet 34-year-old Indonesian and 2013 Singapore Open champion, Tommy Sugiarto in the first round on Wednesday, and a potential round-of-16 clash with teammate and world champion Loh Kean Yew awaits.
But as he has learnt over the past few months, he is not going to get ahead of himself.
He said: "I have always trained with Kean Yew but never played against him in a tournament, so that would be a good opportunity, but I cannot be fantasising about this when I have not even played my next match.
"Tommy is a very good and experienced player. I have to forget about today, recover and prepare well."
Many of Teh's teammates also had reason to cheer as Grace Chua (women's singles), Wesley Koh and Junsuke Kubo, Andy Kwek and Jason Wong (men's doubles), and Crystal Wong and Koh (mixed doubles) made it to the main draw.
Meanwhile, world No. 48 pair Terry Hee and Loh Kean Hean progressed to the men's doubles round of 16 for the first time after defeating India's Krishna Prasad Garaga and Vishnuvardhan Goud Panjala 21-15, 19-21, 21-17 in 50 minutes.
Singapore's top singles players Kean Yew and Yeo Jia Min, as well as mixed doubles duo Jessica Tan and Hee will be in first-round action on Wednesday.