SINGAPORE - Defending men's singles champion Loh Kean Yew is now one victory away from claiming another Badminton World Championships medal.
On Thursday (Aug 25), the world No. 8 Singaporean beat Hong Kong's 11th-ranked Angus Ng, who retired while trailing 21-11, 11-4 after 22 minutes at the Tokyo Metropolitan Gymnasium, to advance to the quarter-finals.
This sets up a repeat of the SEA Games final with Thailand's defensive expert Kunlavut Vitidsarn on Friday.
Back in May, the world No. 17 took full advantage of Loh's fatigue after a marathon semi-final win to win 21-13, 21-13.
But Loh, who trails 2-1 in their head-to-head record, should be fresher this time after cruising past Ng, who required treatment to his right thigh when 8-3 down in the second game.
The 25-year-old, who is Singapore's only medallist at the world meet, looks to be rediscovering his form again as he beat Spain's Pablo Abian 21-12, 21-12 in the first round, and Guatemala's Tokyo 2020 semi-finalist Kevin Cordon 21-12, 11-21, 21-12 in the next round.
He said: "I think I played quite well and smoothly in the first game, and it was unfortunate he had the injury in the second game. It was an unexpected ending, but I wish him speedy recovery.
"At this level, it is anybody's game. At this point, I'm going to just chiong (Singlish for go all out). I will analyse my game and my opponent's game with my coach and come up with a plan.
"But I don't want to overthink things. I'm just going in, trying to enjoy playing the game, trying to give my best, and taking things one step, one point, one game and one match at a time."
Loh, however, is the last Singaporean shuttler left in the tournament after the brave runs of his teammates came to an end in the round of 16.
World No. 41 men's doubles pair Terry Hee and Loh Kean Hean clawed back from a 15-11 deficit to take the first game against 35th-ranked M. R. Arjun and Dhruv Kapila, but the Indians stepped up a gear to win 18-21, 21-15, 21-16 in 58 minutes.
Earlier, the Singaporeans had stunned 27th-ranked French brothers Christo and Toma Junior Popov in the first round, followed by Malaysia's world No. 10 and last year's bronze medallists Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi.
Kean Hean said: "We didn't play as well as yesterday or as we normally do. They prepared well and performed better than us. They were very fast and aggressive in their attacks and flat shots, and we couldn't convert the situation into our favour. We were not clear in our defence and made a lot of mistakes.
"Overall for this tournament, we would give ourselves 7/10. Generally, we played well to overcome challenges and deficits, but it wasn't to be today."
Hee then returned to the court later in the day with his wife Jessica Tan as the 32nd-ranked mixed doubles duo, but found themselves outplayed as they lost 21-10, 21-15 to Hong Kong's world No. 7 Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet.
After winning the first point, they found themselves blitzed by last year's bronze medallists, who were just too fast and too furious with their movement and combinations as they raced to a 12-2 lead and comfortably claimed the opener.
Commonwealth Games champions Hee and Tan, who beat Japan's world No. 16 Yuki Kaneko and Misaki Matsutomo in the previous round, were more competitive in the second game and got to within a point at 16-15, before their southpaw opponents pulled away to avoid an upset.
National doubles coach Lim Pek Siah was pleased with the players' performances in Tokyo.
She said: "I hope this affirms their talent and ability and they can be more confident of how well they can play. To be medal contenders at this level, they will need to improve in terms of consistency, as well as variety and options in attack and defence."
While disappointed, Tan preferred to take the positives from their first World Championships outing together. She said: "We were definitely far from our best today. We were not at our best physically, and hence were unable to bring out our best play, which was very unfortunate.
"However, we are pleased with our campaign overall, especially after the huge upset over the Japanese pair on their home ground to reach the last 16 on our first attempt, and we aim to be back stronger."
In the women's doubles, world No. 80s Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong put up admirable resistance against China's 13th-ranked Zhang Shuxian and Zheng Yu before losing 21-15, 21-14.