SINGAPORE — Disappointment was etched on Loh Kean Yew's normally-cheerful face, as he slumped to an upset defeat by a lower-ranked opponent at the KFF Singapore Badminton Open on Thursday (8 June).
The former world champion, who had played so assuredly against a tricky opponent in the previous round, was tentative and error-prone against France's young upstart Christo Popov in his round-of-16 match at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.
A poor first game led to an uphill struggle as world No.5 Loh fell 10-21, 21-23 in 45 minutes to 21-year-old Popov, ranked 30 spots below him in the world rankings.
Despite the strong crowd turnout, the arena was stunned into silence as an out-of-sorts Loh sprayed errant shots all over the court in the first game, quickly falling 3-14 behind before Popov closed out the game.
Loh was much better in the second game, but Popov defended well before errors crept back to halt Loh's comeback charge.
"A lot of disappointment and unhappiness throughout the match," a subdued Loh told reporters after his loss.
"I probably gave (Christo) a lot of confidence after the first game, and while I tried to make a fight out of it, it wasn't enough. I'll need to go back and think and analyse what went wrong."
With Loh's exit from the men's singles event, the wait goes on for the next local men's singles winner at the Singapore Badminton Open after Wee Choon Seng way back in 1962.
Yeo Jia Min no match for in-form An Se-young
In the women's singles, Singapore Yeo Jia Min faced a daunting match-up in her round-of-16 tie, against South Korea's world No.2 An Se-young, the reigning All England champion.
As much as Yeo tried to extend the rallies and force An into mistakes, she proved no match for the in-form An, who has already won four times on the BWF Tour this year. The Korean barely broke a sweat in defeating Yeo 21-12, 21-11 in 31 minutes.
Analysing her loss, Yeo said after the match, "An played a fast game, and did not allow me to extend the rallies and set up the big smashes. I was always under pressure from running front and back, and that's some thing I need to keep working on to get better."
Day three of the Singapore Open saw several other upsets in the draw. Taiwan's fifth-seeded men's singles player Chou Tien-chen was bundled out by former world No.2 Anders Antonsen of Denmark 21-12, 21-15, while Thailand's former women's world champion Ratchanok Intanon also succumbed to a 16-21, 10-21 defeat by Japan's Aya Ohori.
Another former women's world champion, Spain's Carolina Marin, was edged out by Thailand's Supanida Katethong 21-17, 19-21, 17-21, while Thailand's defending mixed doubles champions Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai also lost narrowly to Denmark's Mathias Christiansen and Alexandra Boje 24-26, 20-22.
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