SINGAPORE — A battling Loh Kean Yew pulled out all the stops against his higher-ranked opponent, but Taiwanese Chou Tien-chen's veteran experience counted at the end of an enthralling Indonesia Masters clash on Saturday (11 June).
Singapore's reigning badminton world champion pushed the former world No.2 all the way, but Chou held his composure to clinch the men's singles semi-final clash 21-16, 8-21, 21-19 in 70 minutes.
Loh, ranked No.10 in the world, was seeking his first title of the year, and had not dropped a set en route to the semi-finals. However, 32-year-old Chou - ranked world No.4 - was always going to be a tough test for the Singaporean shuttler, having easily beaten him at last year's Indonesia Masters.
And he did just that, withstanding a strong start by Loh in the first set to rein the 24-year-old in with his variety of offensive weapons, forcing Loh into errors to clinch the set in 21 minutes.
However, Loh found his feet in the second set, as Chou seemed out of sorts from the onset, and opened a huge 11-2 lead. With Chou preferring to conserve his prowess for the rubber set, Loh comfortably closed out the set in 17 minutes.
That set up a nail-biting final set, as both players thrilled the crowd with spectacular smashes and desperate saves. In the end, though, Chou's veteran nous shone through as Loh lost a couple of crucial points to fall to defeat.
Loh had started the tournament - which carries a total prize purse of US$360,000 (S$495,000) - with two straightforward victories: a 21-14, 21-13 win over France's world No.25 Toma Junior Popov on Wednesday, and then a 21-11, 21-14 win over Indonesia's world No.46 Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo a day later.
In Friday's quarter-finals, he withstood a spirited fightback from China's world No.26 Lu Guangzu, before eventually defeating his rival 21-15, 21-19.
This is Loh's first tournament since earning two medals, a silver and a bronze, at the Hanoi SEA Games last month, when he lost to Thailand's Kunlavut Vitidsam in the men's singles final after leading the Singapore men's team to third place in the team competition.
He will be embarking on a busy schedule in the next couple of months, as he takes part in several top regional tournaments such as next week's Indonesia Open, the Malaysia Open at the end of the month and next month's Singapore Badminton Open.
Loh is also selected by the Singapore National Olympic Council to take part in the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham at the end of July.
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