Badminton: Terry Hee, Loh Kean Hean shock Malaysian bronze medallists at World C'ships

Loh Kean Hean (right) and Terry Hee beat last year's bronze medallists and world No.10s Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi of Malaysia. PHOTO: BADMINTONPHOTO

SINGAPORE –  On a perfect day for Singapore at the Badminton World Championships, all four of their singles and doubles representatives made it to the round of 16 after overcoming strong opponents.

World No. 41 men’s doubles pair Terry Hee and Loh Kean Hean started the ball rolling on Wednesday (Aug 24) when they stunned reigning bronze medallists  Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi of Malaysia.

Producing a stirring defensive display against their 10th-ranked opponents, the Singaporeans won 22-20, 22-20 to earn a showdown against India’s 35th-ranked M. R. Arjun and Dhruv Kapila on Thursday.

Hee said: “I guess the pressure was on them, that’s why maybe they under-performed, and we are very happy to come away with the win. We always look for room for improvement. Even though we are satisfied with our performance today, we hope we can produce even better badminton and bigger upsets.”

Kean Hean admitted that he “didn’t start well”. “There were a lot of mistakes on my side and my shots were too soft,” he said.

“I tried to take more initiative to fight the front (court) and applied more pressure. I’m glad I managed to challenge myself to tweak something during the match although we were trailing, and it worked.”

He noted that their patience paid off, especially in the second set when they were trailing. “We didn’t think about the score. We just focused on how to win each point as they came.” 

Hee and Loh have had a fine run in the tournament as they also upset 27th-ranked French brothers Christo and Toma Junior Popov in the first round.

Against the Malaysians, who beat them in their only previous encounter at the 2017 SEA Games, Hee and Loh did well to keep the scores close.

And even when their more illustrious opponents threatened to run away with the first game at 18-14 and held a game point, they kept their nerve to pinch the opener.

The second game followed in a similar vein as Ong and Teo raced to a 13-8 lead, only for the Singaporeans to claw their way back with some outstanding defence and intelligent shot placements and seal the surprise win on their second match point.

Also advancing on Wednesday was defending men’s singles champion Loh Kean Yew, who beat Tokyo 2020 semi-finalist Kevin Cordon of Guatemala 21-12, 11-21, 21-12.

The world No. 8 produced a nine-point blitz in the first game and then a superb 12-1 start in the decider to overcome his second-game blip and move on to the third round, where he will face Hong Kong’s world No. 11 Angus Ng.

Kean Yew said: “In the second game, the draught was kind of strong on my side, so it took me a while to adjust to the conditions. But overall, I think it was a good match for me, as Kevin played well also, so it’s definitely a good win.”

Hee returned to the court later in the day with his wife Jessica Tan as the 32nd-ranked mixed doubles duo  beat Japan’s world No. 16 Yuki Kaneko and Misaki Matsutomo 19-21, 21-11, 21-17.

The Commonwealth Games champions squandered a 17-11 lead in the opener and were down 7-4 in the second. Instead of crumbling, they came storming back with a series of good serves from Tan and Hee’s aggressive play to pull away in the second game.

They had another handy 18-10 advantage, and this time they survived the local favourites’ fightback to seal another memorable victory in an hour and a meeting with Hong Kong’s world No. 7 Tang Chun Man and Tse Ying Suet, who beat China’s 35th-ranked Guo Xinwa and Zhang Shuxian.

Tan said: “We tried to focus on our own performance and consistency instead of the home support. Every win is satisfying in its own way, regardless of whether it is an upset or not. 

“Now, we just want to focus on the next match. We will be underdogs again, and we will continue to fight and give our 100 per cent.”

There was more good news for the Singapore camp as its 80th-ranked women’s pair, Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong, also progressed to the last 16 after their opponents, three-time silver medallists Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota of Japan, withdrew. The Japanese are ranked No. 2 in the world.

Jin and Wong will meet Chinese world No. 13s Zhang and Zheng Yu next.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.