SINGAPORE - World No. 9 Loh Kean Yew opened his 2022 European campaign on a losing note, going down to Canada's 33rd-ranked Brian Yang 12-21, 21-16, 21-18 in the first round of the German Open in Mulheim on Wednesday (March 9).
Both players are familiar with each other, having trained together alongside Denmark's Olympic champion and world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen in Dubai, and it made for a high-tempo and entertaining match at the Westenergie Sporthalle.
The Singaporean world champion got off to a flying start, pulling off good smash and follow-up combinations to win 15 out of the last 18 points to take the opening game in just 13 minutes.
However, 20-year-old Yang took control of the second game with a series of deceptive shots that forced a decider.
Loh, 24, stepped up a gear and went on the offensive in the rubber game to lead 10-5, 15-11, and 18-16, but Yang kept coming back, forcing errors from his more illustrious opponent to record his first win over Loh in three attempts.
Loh told The Straits times: “I played too slowly in the second game and he got more and more comfortable. Then, I wanted to win too much and got too impatient.
“I need to constantly remind myself to stay calm and go point by point instead.”
In Thursday's second round, Yang will play Japan's world No. 19 Kenta Nishimoto, who stunned his compatriot, world No. 2 and two-time world champion Kento Momota, 23-21, 21-9 at the US$180,000 (S$245,000) Badminton World Federation World Tour Super 300 event.
Loh, on the other hand, cashes out for US$630 and will now prepare for the March 16-20 All England Open in Birmingham, where he faces Denmark's world No. 3 Anders Antonsen in the first round.
He said: “I’m excited to participate in my first All England Open and I’ll do my best to train and prepare for it.”
National singles coach Kelvin Ho shared that Loh will remain in Germany to spar with other players before flying to England on Sunday.
He added: “Kean Yew was still doing okay in the first game because Brian was not ready yet.
“But he started making too many unforced errors in the next two games against an opponent with good skills , which proved costly.
“We will work on improving his fitness and speed ahead of next week’s All England Open.”