SINGAPORE — Loh Kean Yew's meteoric rise in world badminton hit a road bump on Sunday (16 January), as he came up short in the men’s singles final at the India Open in New Delhi.
In his first tournament as reigning world champion, the 24-year-old was beaten by India's own fast-rising star, 20-year-old Lakshya Sen, losing 22-24, 17-21 in 54 minutes.
The current world No.15 still earned US$15,200 (S$20,490) in prize money for being runner-up, and will continue to rise up the world rankings when the new list comes out early next week.
Against Sen - whom he had beaten en route to winning both the Dutch Open in October and the Hylo Open in Germany in November - Loh started off tentative, piling up errors as his opponent sped to a 16-9 lead.
However, the 24-year-old stepped up a gear and roared back to take a 20-19 lead. However, errors crept in again and he was unable to put away Sen, allowing the Indian to take the first set.
Loh continued to be dogged by errors in the second set, and this time, Sen did not allow another comeback as he became the first Indian to win the men's singles event at the Open.
Three titles in last three months
Loh has been on a hot streak since his fruitful training stint in Dubai with world No.1 Viktor Axelsen after the Tokyo Olympics last August.
The Dutch Open win was a promising start for the then-world No.41, but the Hylo Open victory was significant, as the Super 500 tournament was his then-biggest career win.
But it was in the final week of November when Loh truly exploded into world-beating form at the prestigious Indonesia Open in Bali. He stunned then-world No.1 Kento Momota of Japan in the opening round, and reached the final before losing to Axelsen in three sets.
His next tournament was the BWF World Championships in Huelva, Spain, and there he landed his greatest achievement in winning the world title, becoming the first Singaporean to do so. Along the way, he turned the tables on Axelsen in the opening round and outlasted India's Kidambi Srikanth in the final.
Terry Hee, Tan Wei Han stun higher-ranked opponents for mixed doubles title
Before Sunday, there had been only one occasion when Singapore shuttlers were champions at the 49-year-old India Open - back in 2010, when Shinta Mulia Sari and Yao Lei won the women's doubles title.
But mixed doubles duo Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han ended that barren run, as the world No.182 pair stunned Malaysia's world No.40 duo Chen Tang Jie and Peck Yen Wei 21-15, 21-18 in 40 minutes to clinch their biggest World Tour title.
Hee and Tan, who tied the wedding knot in October, played an excellent tactical game to stop Chen from launching his lethal smashes, and took care of the key points in each set to earn US$31,600 in prize money.
Thailand shuttlers won two events at the Open. In the opening final of the day, fourth-seeded women's doubles duo Benyapa and Nuntakarn Aimsaard defeated Russian third seeds Anastasila Akchurina and Olga Morozova 21-13, 21-5.
Women's singles second seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan earned Thailand's second title after a gruelling 76-minute battle with compatriot Supanida Katethong, before winning the final 22-20, 19-21, 21-13.
In the men's doubles final, India's Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chirag Shetty stunned Indonesia's former world champions Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan 21-16, 26-24 to bring more cheers to the host nation.
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