Indonesia Open: Loh Kean Yew falls short in valiant final battle with world No.2 Viktor Axelsen

Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew in action at the Indonesia Open men's singles semi-finals
Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew in action at the Indonesia Open men's singles semi-finals. (PHOTO: AFP/Badminton Association of Indonesia)

SINGAPORE — Loh Kean Yew put up a valiant battle, but the Singapore shuttler found world No.2 Viktor Axelsen a bridge too far to cross in his bid to land the biggest professional title of his blossoming badminton career.

The world No.26 fell 13-21, 21-9, 13-21 in 59 minutes to the Danish Olympic gold medallist in the prestigious Indonesia Open men's singles final in Bali on Sunday (28 November).

Loh, 24, could look back at a stellar tournament run, in which he took the scalps of world No.1 Kento Momota in the round of 16 and world No.13 Rasmus Gemke in the semi-finals.

He also became the first Singaporean badminton player to have reached a Super 1000 tournament final, since the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Tour began in 2018.

Super 1000 is the second-highest tier of BWF tournaments, just behind the BWF World Tour Finals. Each event on this tier carries a total prize money of US$850,000 (S$1.2 million), and Loh will still earn US$28,900 as runner-up of the men's singles event.

He will however miss out on the season-ending World Tour Finals, which will also be held in Bali from 1 to 5 December. Only eight shuttlers make the cut for each World Tour Finals competition, and Loh had to win the Indonesia Open to qualify.

On a tear after training stint with Axelsen

Axelsen is arguably the biggest reason why Loh has been on a tear in recent months, after he invited the Singaporean to train with him in Dubai after the Tokyo Olympics in August. Following that month-long stint, Loh's form improved dramatically as he began a series of BWF World Tour events in Europe.

Last month, he ended a two-year professional title drought at the Dutch Open, beating top-seeded Lakshya Sen of India in the final. Earlier this month in Germany, he claimed what was the biggest title of his career in the Hylo Open, a Super 500 tournament, as he stunned reigning All-England champion Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia.

Before his Indonesia Open exploits, Loh had also beaten a string of top players including Taiwan's world No.4 Chou Tien-chen, Lee (seventh) and Taiwanese Wang Tzu-wei (11th), and Sen (19th). However, he could not defeat Axelsen at last month's Denmark Open, losing 19-21, 14-21 in the opening round.

Other Indonesia Open final results

In the women's singles final, South Korea's world No.6 An Se-young won her second title in as many weeks when she defeated Thailand's world No.8 Ratchanok Intanon 21-17, 22-20 in 46 minutes.

Japan's Nami Matsuyama and Chiharu Shida caused a mild upset in the women's doubles final, defeating home favourites and Olympic gold medallists Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu 21-19, 21-19 in a titanic battle which featured a 192-stroke rally.

There was more joy for the Indonesian world No.1 men's doubles pair of Marcus Fernaldi Gideon and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo, as they swept past Japan's Takuro Hoki and Yugo Kobayashi 21-14, 21-18 to win their third straight Indonesia Open title.

In the mixed doubles final, Thailand's Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai comfortably defeated Japan's Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino 21-13, 21-13.

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