Badminton: Singapore lose 5-0 to hosts Malaysia in Asia Team C'ships opener

Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew loses 21-6, 21-14 to Malaysia's Lee Zii Jia in the Badminton Asia Team Championships Group B opener, on Feb 16, 2022. PHOTO: BADMINTON ASIA

The Singapore men’s team crashed to a 5-0 defeat by hosts Malaysia in their Badminton Asia Team Championships Group B opener on Wednesday (Feb 16), but Singapore Badminton Association technical director Martin Andrew is confident of better performances from here on.

Cheered on by a partisan crowd at the Setia City Convention Centre in Selangor, Malaysia’s world No. 7 and All England winner Lee Zii Jia drew first blood with a resounding 21-6, 21-14 win over world No. 12 and world champion Loh Kean Yew in 30 minutes.

Despite playing his first match of the year after a fallout with the Badminton Association of Malaysia that saw him leave the national set-up, Lee showed he had recovered from the saga as well as niggling injuries by hitting the crisper and more decisive shots.

Loh, on the other hand, looked out of sorts as he struggled to find his range, as his clears often sailed long and his smashes were fired into the net.

The 24-year-old conceded he “did not play well”, and added: “It was very windy but Zii Jia played well and was in control of the conditions, so that’s something I need to learn from and improve.

“I hope to be able to control my shots better and do better in the upcoming matches.”

The first doubles was a straightforward affair too as world No. 7 and Tokyo 2020 bronze medallists Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik beat unranked duo Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Wesley Koh, who were combining for the first time, 21-14, 21-12 in 25 minutes.

In the second singles, Singapore’s world No. 104 Jason Teh made 47th-ranked Ng Tze Yong work hard for his 17-21, 24-22, 21-19 win in 78 minutes. Up 19-15 in the second game, Teh was two points away from a memorable victory, but allowed his opponent a way back to force a decider.

The remaining matches conformed to the world rankings. Firstly, Malaysia’s world No. 17 pair of Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin eased past 1,234th-ranked Terry Hee and Andy Kwek, who had played together just once before, 21-10, 21-13 in 26 minutes.

The Singaporean doubles combinations had required some adjustments as Hee’s regular partner Loh Kean Hean – the duo are ranked 85th – tested positive for Covid-19 and did not travel with the team.

Then in the third singles, Singapore’s world No. 274 Joel Koh gave 126th-ranked Leong Jun Hao a good test before the Malaysian won 21-17, 22-20 in 39 minutes.

Andrew was disappointed with the big defeat but kept faith in his team’s abilities.
He said: “Jason and Joel played well and had chances to win but couldn’t take them, so there are learning opportunities there... other players will find their form.

“Our doubles players are relatively used to playing together in training, so there isn’t anything completely new to them. We can select different pairings for each match and will discuss this.

“Overall, we can improve on our court presence and belief. Our players need to be positive and take the initiative in their matches.”

Meanwhile, in the other Group B match, a second-string Japan side beat Kazakhstan 5-0 without dropping a game.

Singapore will face Japan on Thursday (Feb 17), with the winners in a strong position to qualify for the semi-finals and earn a spot at the Thomas Cup.

Andrew said: “It will be important for Kean Yew to get off to a winning start, and the doubles matches will be close contests. The Japanese players are technically sound, move fast and are very agile, so our players will have to be on top of their game throughout.”

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