SINGAPORE - Loh Kean Yew responded to the disappointment from his badminton World Championships quarter-final exit last week by beating China's bronze medallist Zhao Junpeng 21-15, 21-9 in the opening round of the Japan Open on Tuesday (Aug 30).
He will face world No. 18 H. S. Prannoy in the round of 16 at the Maruzen Intec Arena Osaka tomorrow. Loh had beaten the 30-year-old Indian in the World Championships quarter-final last year en route to a historic world title.
Against Zhao, Loh – who has risen to a career-high world No. 7 – was quick to the net, precise with his shots to the corners, and generally able to impose his aggressive strategy. He sealed the win in 32 minutes against the world No. 19.
The 25-year-old told The Straits Times he has moved on from being dethroned as world champion, and said: “Every day is a new day, I just got to look forward and keep going.
“I’m happy I was able to perform well today, execute my game plan to stay on top of my opponent. Prannoy will be a tough opponent so I’ll need to analyse him well and be ready.
“As for the world rankings, I’m also glad to reach a career high, but I will continue to work hard and hopefully climb further.”
His brother Kean Hean and Terry Hee however, did not advance to the next round after losing 21-23, 21-13, 21-18 to Denmark’s eighth-ranked men’s doubles pair Kim Astrup and Anders Skaarup Rasmussen.
The Singaporeans, No. 36 in the world, saved four game points to take the opener, but could not keep up in the next two games, going as close as 18-17 in the decider before losing in an hour.
Hee will return to the court on Wednesday with his wife Jessica Tan as the world No. 29 mixed doubles duo to take on China’s 32nd-ranked Guo Xinwa and Zhang Shuxian.
The Republic’s world No. 18 Yeo Jia Min, who missed the World Championships after testing positive for Covid-19, will open her women’s singles campaign against Thailand’s 29th-ranked Supanida Katethong.
Meanwhile, newly-crowned men’s singles world champion Viktor Axelsen, who was on Loh’s side of the draw, pulled out of the Japan Open. The Danish world No. 1 was replaced by Frenchman Brice Leverdez, who beat South Korean Heo Kwang-hee to make it to the round of 16.
Likewise, Malaysia’s men’s doubles world champions Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik also withdrew, with Chia dealing with a right-shoulder injury. They were replaced by China’s Ren Xiangyu and Tan Qiang, who lost to compatriots Liu Yuchen and Ou Xuanyi.
The US$750,000 (S$1.05 million) Japan Open is a Super 750 event, on the third tier of the Badminton World Federation World Tour circuit.