Improvement the key for S'pore

Shuttlers all out in Thai Open as coach says more work to be done by Yeo, Loh

Singapore's Yeo Jia Min during her 21-15, 21-15 loss to world No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon at the Yonex Thailand Open yesterday. The defeat extended her winless record against the Thai to 3-0.
Singapore's Yeo Jia Min during her 21-15, 21-15 loss to world No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon at the Yonex Thailand Open yesterday. The defeat extended her winless record against the Thai to 3-0.PHOTO: COURTESY OF BADMINTONPHOTO

Passive play saw Singapore's top female shuttler Yeo Jia Min head for an early exit at the Yonex Thailand Open yesterday, when she was beaten 21-15, 21-15 by Thailand's world No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon in the women's singles first round.

The world No. 26 managed to keep pace with the 2013 world champion in the early stages of both sets but Ratchanok simply stepped up a gear, pulling away each time the scores were level at 8-8 and 10-10 in the first and second games to win in 42 minutes.

The loss at Bangkok's Impact Arena extended Yeo's winless record against the Thai to 3-0.

The 21-year-old Singaporean said: "I think I played better than my last match against her at the 2019 World Championships, but there is still more to improve on in rallies. I would also like to take more initiative to create attacking opportunities."

Her defeat meant that Singapore's shuttlers have all exited at the first round in Thailand, although they did run their opponents close.

On Tuesday, world No. 38 Loh Kean Yew narrowly lost to Indonesia's world No. 7 and Asian Games champion Jonatan Christie 13-21, 21-10, 21-16 in the men's singles, while Crystal Wong and Jin Yujia were beaten 12-21, 21-15, 21-18 by Thailand's Laksika Kanlaha and Atitaya Povanon.

This week's Thailand Open marks the first competitive action for the Singaporeans in over 10 months owing to the pandemic forcing events worldwide to be axed or cancelled.

But the tournament, the first to kick off the Badminton World Federation World Tour this season, suffered a virus scare early on when four shuttlers initially tested positive before three were eventually cleared to play.

Indian shuttler Kidambi Srikanth had also complained about being left with a bloody nose after a Covid-19 test.

Despite the Covid-19 threat, the Singaporean quartet are looking forward to next week's Toyota Thailand Open at the same venue.

Yeo said: "I'm not really sure about the other players' situation. The incubation period for the virus can be days so we won't really know if anyone here has the virus even if they tested negative.

"We can do only what we can and not interact with players from other countries outside our matches."

Loh will face Thailand's three-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn next week, while Yeo will meet Indonesia's world No. 35 Ruselli Hartawan. Women's doubles pair Wong and Jin will come up against Denmark's Alexandra Boje and Mette Poulsen.

National singles coach Kelvin Ho said: "Kean Yew needs to improve on his focus and adaptation skills, while Jia Min can match opponents for speed but still needs work on her shot selection and court awareness.

"Overall, our players can improve on their consistency but all of them showed excellent fighting spirit in their first tournament after so many months."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on January 14, 2021, with the headline 'Improvement the key for S'pore'. Print Edition | Subscribe