Loh Kean Yew one step from becoming world champion after s-final win over world No.3 Antonsen

Singapore badminton player Loh Kean Yew during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.
Singapore badminton player Loh Kean Yew during the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. (PHOTO: Reuters/Leonhard Foeger)

SINGAPORE — Could Singapore see its first-ever badminton world champion in less than 24 hours?

Loh Kean Yew has the prestigious title within sight, after he defeated Denmark's Anders Antonsen to reach the men's singles final of the Badminton World Federation (BWF) World Championships in Huelva, Spain on Saturday (18 December).

His 23-21, 21-14 victory over the world No.3 in 61 minutes set up a final clash on Sunday with India's Kidambi Srikanth for the right to be called the 2021 men's world champion. Srikanth, the world No.14, had beaten compatriot Lakshya Sen 17-21, 21-14, 21-17 in the other semi-final after a 69-minute battle.

Loh, ranked world No.22, could become the first unseeded men's singles world champion since 2013, when China great Lin Dan returned after a year of relative inactivity to successfully defend his 2012 world title.

The 24-year-old had already created a slice of Singapore sporting history on Friday, when he became the first shuttler from the city-state to make it to the semi-final stage of the world championships. He thus assured Singapore of its first medal at the event, as losing semi-finalists automatically earn their bronzes.

He has already had a superb run at the tournament, turning heads as the in-form shuttler of the moment despite his modest world ranking. He stunned the current world No.1 and reigning Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen on Monday, then followed up with impressive victories over Austria's Luka Wraber on Wednesday, Thailand's Kantaphon Wangcharoen on Thursday, and India's HS Prannoy on Friday.

It has been an outstanding final three months of the year for the Singaporean, whose form soared after Axelsen invited him to train together in Dubai after the Tokyo Olympics in August.

Following that stint, he began his hot streak by winning the Dutch Open in October, then earning his biggest career title in November by clinching the Hylo Open in Germany, which is a BWF World Tour Super 500-level event.

Late last month at the Super 1000-level Indonesia Open in Bali, Loh stunned then-world No.1 Kento Momota in the last-16 round, and made it all the way to the final before succumbing to Axelsen in three sets.

Catch the BWF World Championships final on StarHub Ch201 from Sunday 5pm.

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