SINGAPORE - World champion Loh Kean Yew's path towards winning the India Open and breaking into the top 10 for the first time has opened up with his second-round victory and a slew of withdrawals due to Covid-19.
The 24-year-old Singaporean on Thursday (Jan 13) beat Malaysia's world No. 70 Soong Joo Ven 21-12, 21-12 in 33 minutes. He will face Russian Sergey Sirant (No. 76) in the quarter-final on Friday.
Loh, at world No. 15, is the highest-ranked player left in the men's singles after top seed and No. 10 Srikanth Kidambi was one of seven Indian shuttlers ruled out after positive coronavirus tests on Wednesday.
If Loh wins the US$400,000 (S$541,000) competition, which is a Super 500 event and fourth tier of the BWF World Tour circuit, he will replace Srikanth as world No. 10.
But Loh is not thinking about climbing the ranks right now, telling The Straits Times: “There are a lot of other good players in the tournament. Hopefully, I can perform well. I don’t know about the rankings and I don’t want to. I just want to focus on finding consistency.”
In the mixed doubles, the Republic's world No. 182 Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han benefited from the withdrawal of India's world No. 978 Akshan Shetty and Simran Singhi.
Singhi tested positive for Covid-19, while Shetty cannot compete as he is considered a close contact.
The Singaporeans next meet India's unranked pair of Nithin H. V. and Ashwini Bhat K.
Elsewhere at the Indira Gandhi Sports Complex, Singapore's 17th-ranked Yeo Jia Min posted a 13-21, 21-7, 21-12 win over India's world No. 159 Anupama Upadhyaya in 52 minutes.
The 22-year-old showed more aggression and composure after losing the first game, and will play Thailand's world No. 33 Supanida Katethong on Friday for a place in the semi-finals.
National singles coach Kelvin Ho said: “Kean Yew made good attacking plays which made it difficult for his opponent to retrieve his shots.
“Jia Min did well to overcome losing the first game and became more ready for her opponent after that to make sure she exerted good shot pressure to regain control.”
Later in the day, Singapore’s world No. 106 pair Loh Kean Hean and Hee beat India’s unranked duo Gaurav Deswal and Shubham Yadav 21-12, 21-11 to make the men’s doubles quarter-finals, where they will meet India’s world No. 10 pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty on Friday.
The pandemic situation continues to cast a shadow on the event, with Yeo saying: “I think all the players and coaches are quite scared every time we leave the room now because there are many people at the hall. We are trying our best to be very careful and stay away from crowds when we can.”
Ho added that the Singapore contingent have been advised to stay in a bubble by remaining in their rooms at all times when they are not training or competing.