Badminton: Loh Kean Yew moves up to 9th in the world rankings

Loh Kean Yew's leap in the world ranking will help him automatically qualify for bigger tournaments. PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - After breaking into the top 10 of the men's singles for the first time, Singapore's top shuttler, world champion Loh Kean Yew, is delighted but not satisfied.

In the latest Badminton World Federation (BWF) rankings released on Tuesday (Feb 22), he rose three spots to place ninth, thanks to points gained from being part of the Singapore team that claimed bronze at the Badminton Asia Team Championships (BATC) in the previous week.

He is also the 10th Singaporean to crack a badminton top-10 list since former women's singles star Zarinah Abdullah surged to world No. 3 in 1994. The Republic's highest-ranked men's singles player was Ronald Susilo, who was sixth in 2004.

The last time any local shuttler made the top 10 was when mixed doubles duo Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Vanessa Neo were ranked ninth in 2013.

Loh told The Straits Times: "It feels great to reach the top 10 as it's always been one of my goals. But now that I'm here, I don't want to stop here.

"I want to achieve more. It's not going to be easy, and I don't know what the future lies, but of course I want to win as many matches and move as high up the rankings as possible, and continue to improve in every aspect of the game. I want to surpass my own limits and be better than before."

The 24-year-old has enjoyed a superb run of form since going on a one-month training stint with Denmark's world No. 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen, as well as other players in the top 60, across August and September.

Loh was ranked 40th then, but went on to end a two-year title drought at the lower-tier Dutch Open in October, followed that up with his first BWF World Tour Super 500 title at the Hylo Open in Germany in November, and topped it off with a stunning World Championships triumph in Spain in December.

For someone who is used to unleashing retrieving smashes that go over 300 kmh and fly about the court retrieving them, even he was surprised at how fast he has moved up the rankings.

He said: "For sure, this has happened faster than I expected. One moment, I was just excited to be able to play high-level tournaments and challenging the top players, and now I'm in the top 10."

Although it seems like he has carried on on where he left off, reaching the Super 500 India Open final in January and helping Singapore win a historic BATC medal this month, his standards are set much higher now, as he nitpicked his own recent performances.

"Throughout these tournaments, I still don't have enough consistency, which is what I'm trying to work on. I had good days and bad days... I want to try and make every day a good day," said Loh.

His leap in the world ranking, which includes up to 10 of the highest points players earn from tournaments, will help him automatically qualify for the bigger tournaments on the tour that carry more ranking points and prize money.

While there is still some way to go, if he climbs to the top eight and top four, he will avoid those ranked above him at the top events until at least the quarter-finals and semi-finals respectively.

After training for a short period in Singapore, Loh will be part of the European swing of the BWF World Tour, playing in the March 8-13 German Open (Super 300), March 16-20 All England Open (Super 1000) and March 22-27 Swiss Open (Super 300).

A glut of team events ensues with the Thomas Cup and Southeast Asian Games in May, Commonwealth Games across July and August, and Asian Games in September.

Loh added he had enjoyed battling and creating history alongside his national team-mates at the BATC, and hopes to continue to fly Singapore's flag high at the upcoming major Games and Thomas Cup.

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