Sunday, April 14, 2024
HomesportLoh Kean Yew beats Anders Antonsen to set up China Open q-final...

Loh Kean Yew beats Anders Antonsen to set up China Open q-final against badminton’s No. 1 Viktor Axelsen

SINGAPORE – Another day, another revenge mission completed and yet another awaits Singapore’s top badminton player Loh Kean Yew, who progressed to the quarter-finals of the US$2 million (S$2.73m) China Open after beating Denmark’s Anders Antonsen 21-17, 21-12 in 51 minutes on Thursday.

World No. 8 Loh will take on another Dane, his badminton buddy and top-ranked Viktor Axelsen on Friday for a place in the following day’s semi-finals.

He said: “I’m happy we played some good rallies to entertain the awesome crowd, and I got another pleasing win today. I managed to stick to the game plan and stay patient throughout.”

National singles coach Kelvin Ho added: “Kean Yew was clear-minded in terms of strategy and mostly played the right shots at the right time today. Such a process will be important for him in his next match.”

Loh, 26, has shown a more composed and consistent side to his gameplay at the Xincheng Gymnasium in Changzhou this week, as he avenged his shock Singapore Open last-16 defeat by Christo Popov to beat the world No. 29 Frenchman 21-14, 21-17 in the first round on Tuesday.

Against 10th-ranked Antonsen, it was more of the same as Loh remained patient and never trailed against an opponent who possesses a solid defence and had beaten him in the Korea Open final in July.

In an opening game that was strewn with unforced errors and superb net play, Loh used his ferocious smashes sparingly and judiciously, mixing things up with slow shots to become unpredictable.

It worked a treat as world championships bronze medallist Antonsen never got closer than within three points after the early exchanges. While he did save two game points, Loh took the game with a pinpoint diagonal clear that landed right at the corner.

The 2021 world champion kept his focus in the second game to continue engaging his rival in rallies. The pick of the bunch was a spectacular 61-shot exchange that featured drop shots, net rolls, deception, smashes and diving saves that had both players scrambling around the court.

Eventually, Antonsen’s loose and wide return broke his own resistance, as he held on to the net post to catch his breath, never to recover from the 13-6 deficit.

Post-match, Loh could not resist teasing the adoring crowd as he gestured to throw his racket into the stands, only to pack it in his bag and tell the fans he still needed it at this Super 1000 event. It offers the most ranking points on the Badminton World Federation World Tour as players try to qualify for the 2024 Olympics.

He will also need to be at his best against Axelsen, who won in three games the last time they met at the Sudirman Cup in May and holds a 6-2 head-to-head record against Loh.

While the Olympic champion, 29, suffered a world championships quarter-final loss against H.S. Prannoy – one of just two players, alongside Loh, to have beaten Axelsen twice in the last 21 months – he still has four titles and 37 wins out of 41 matches he completed in 2023. The latest was a 20-22, 21-6, 21-14 victory over Taiwanese Wang Tzu-wei on Thursday.

Loh, who beat Axelsen at the 2021 world championships and 2022 Denmark Open, said: “I think Viktor will be the favourite against any opponent at the moment, but I will try my best to make things difficult for him.”

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