SINGAPORE - The Republic are tantalisingly close to winning at least a historic bronze at the Badminton Asia Team Championships in Malaysia, after their men's team beat Japan 3-2 in their second Group B match on Thursday (Feb 17).
Singapore will conclude their group campaign on Friday against Kazahkstan, who are already eliminated after being swept 5-0 by Malaysia and Japan, and whose highest-ranked player is world No. 429 Artur Niyazov.
A win will put Singapore in a strong position to secure a place in Saturday's semi-finals and at least a shared bronze, as well as a third appearance at the May 8-15 Thomas Cup in Thailand. After losing 5-0 to Malaysia on Wednesday, Singapore will also need the hosts - who are already through to the final four - to beat Japan in order to advance.
In Thursday's first singles match at the Setia City Convention Centre in Selangor, Singapore's world champion and world No. 12 Loh Kean Yew got the team off on a winning start, beating 343rd-ranked Riku Hatano 21-16, 21-15 in 37 minutes.
But the matches that followed were topsy-turvy affairs.
Singapore's unranked Andy Kwek, 23, and Wesley Koh, 19, combined for the first time to play the first doubles match. Kwek's regular partner Danny Bawa Chrisnanta was instead paired with Terry Hee for the second doubles match after Hee's partner Loh Kean Hean tested positive for Covid-19 and did not travel with the team.
Kwek and Koh put up a good fight against Japan's 857th-ranked Ayata Endo and Yuta Takei before losing 21-12, 19-21, 21-15 in 47 minutes.
It was a more favourable roller-coaster second singles match for Singapore as their world No. 104 Jason Teh outlasted unranked 20-year-old Koo Takahashi 21-15, 13-21, 21-18 after an hour's battle.
The nail-biting encounters continued in the second doubles match as Chrisnanta and Hee, ranked as high as 60th in 2018, were taken the distance by unranked Haruya Nishida and Shuntaro Mezuki.
In the decider, the Singaporean duo let slip a 14-8 lead and were down 19-17 before they rallied to win the last four points and the match 21-18, 18-21, 21-19 in 46 minutes to take the team across the line for the overall victory.
In the third singles, Singapore's world No. 274 Joel Koh lost 21-10, 21-17 to the unranked Koshiro Moriguchi in 33 minutes.