Badminton: S'pore's Loh Kean Yew eases into India Open semi-finals

Loh Kean Yew is the highest-ranked men's singles player left in the competition following the withdrawal of several players due to Covid-19. PHOTO: BADMINTONPHOTO

SINGAPORE - There were mixed fortunes for Singapore’s shuttlers at the India Open on Friday (Jan 14) when an ill Yeo Jia Min was forced to withdraw from her women’s singles quarter-final but Loh Kean Yew progressed to the men’s singles semi-finals.

Amid a spate of Covid-19 cases at the New Delhi event, which saw seven players pull out on Thursday following positive tests, Yeo had sparked concern when she developed a fever.

She had soldiered on on Thursday, winning her second-round match over India’s Anupama Upadhyaya despite being unwell. 

But she withdrew on Friday, allowing Thailand’s 33rd-ranked Supanida Katethong to advance to the semi-finals via walkover.

The Singapore Badminton Association confirmed Yeo had tested negative for Covid-19 and the world No. 17 wrote in an Instagram story: “It’s really unfortunate that I have to withdraw from the India Open quarter-finals later this afternoon. I was not feeling well yesterday morning and it became worse after my match.

An ill Yeo Jia Min was forced to withdraw from her women’s singles quarter-final. PHOTOS: BADMINTONPHOTO, YEO JIA MIN/INSTAGRAM

“My head and body started hurting a lot more and I was having a high fever up to 38.6 deg throughout the night. I really wish to compete but it’s advised by my doctor that I shouldn’t.

“I’m so sorry to disappoint those who were looking forward to support me. Do stay safe and take care of yourselves.”

The 22-year-old earned US$2,400 (S$3,230) but it remains unclear if she will return to action next week at the Syed Modi International in Uttar Pradesh.

While Yeo was hobbled by illness, new world champion Loh continued his relentless charge as he beat Russia’s 76th-ranked Sergey Sirant 21-16, 21-13 in 33 minutes.

The 24-year-old will meet Canada’s 39th-ranked Brian Yang on Saturday. The other semi-final will feature India’s 17th-ranked Lakshya Sen and Malaysia’s world No. 60 Ng Tze Yong.

World No. 15 Loh is the highest-ranked men’s singles player left in the US$400,000 competition and stands a good chance of winning the Super 500 tournament to break into the top 10 for the first time.

Against southpaw Sirant, the Singaporean lost the first point but raced to an 11-3 lead in just four minutes with a series of devastating smashes and delicate drops. 

The 1.85-metre Russian fought back to 17-16 but failed to impose his 10cm height advantage and flat game as Loh managed to close out the first game and then the match.

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Loh said: “I felt I lost a bit of focus today but I’m glad I could overcome that and win the match.

“Today’s match showed me I need to continue to work hard and focus on staying consistent even more. Things will keep changing during matches, so for the semi-final, the most important thing will be to prepare myself to be ready for any changes.”

Compatriots Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han made it to the mixed doubles semi-finals after beating India’s unranked pair of Nithin H. V. and Ashwini Bhat K. 21-15, 21-19 in 30 minutes.

The world No. 182 pair will meet Russia’s 19th-ranked duo Rodion Alimov and Alina Davletova on Saturday for a place in Sunday’s final.

After making their first Super 500 semi-final, Tan said: “We are not totally pleased with our performance today as we still have a bit of trouble getting our footing.

“We want to be more active and clear-headed in the semi-final and hope to upset our opponents.”

Men’s doubles world No. 106 Loh Kean Hean and Hee lost 21-18, 21-18 to India’s 10th-ranked Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty in the quarter-finals. They earned US$2,900 and should make a swift return to the top 100.

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