Loh Kean Yew reaches 3rd straight final after ill s-final opponent withdraws

·2 min read
Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew in action at the 2021 BWF World Championships.
Singapore shuttler Loh Kean Yew in action at the 2021 BWF World Championships. (PHOTO: Jose Jordan/AFP via Getty Images)

SINGAPORE — Loh Kean Yew reached his third straight men's singles final on the badminton World Tour circuit at the India Open in New Delhi - without even stepping onto the court on Saturday (15 January).

The reigning world champion now has a chance to propel himself into the top 10 of the world rankings for the first time in his career, as his semi-final opponent Brian Yang of Canada conceded a walkover after being ill with sore throat and headache. Yang was later tested negative for COVID-19.

Loh, the current world No.15, will face India's world No.17 Lakshya Sen in Sunday's final. Sen had defeated Malaysia's world No. 60 Ng Tze Yong 19-21, 21-16, 21-12 in the other semi-final.

The 24-year-old Loh had been on a tear since a fruitful training stint in Dubai with world No.1 Viktor Axelsen after the Tokyo Olympics last August. A Dutch Open title in October was followed by another title in November at the Hylo Open in Germany.

But it was in the final week of November when he 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.

Loh's 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.

Srikanth would have been Loh's likely opponent at this India Open semi-final, but the top seed was forced to withdraw after being tested positive for COVID-19.

There has been a spate of withdrawals at the India Open due to positive COVID-19 test results, and it has allowed the Singapore pair of Terry Hee and Tan Wei Han to reach the mixed doubles final.

Hee and Tan, who tied their wedding knot in October last year, advanced after their Russian semi-final opponents Rodion Alimov and Alina Davletova withdrew due to Alimov being tested positive for the coronavirus.

They will face Malaysian Chen Tang Jie and Peck Yan Wei, who defeated their compatriots Tan Kian Meng and Lai Pei Jing 21-19, 21-23, 21-14 in the other semi-final tie.

The India Open finals will be shown on StarHub Ch205 from 3.30pm on Sunday.

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