Story by Rebecca Yip/Red Sports. Photos by Matthew Lau/Red Sports and Jerald Ang/Red Sports.
Singapore Indoor Stadium, Saturday, June 13, 2015 — Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew caused a major upset when he defeated Vietnam’s Nguyen Tien Min, the second seed in the tournament, 21-16, 15-21, 21-17.
On paper, it looked like an easy romp for the Vietnamese in his match-up with the 18-year-old Singaporean. Nguyen, who is almost twice Kean Yew’s age at 32 years, is ranked 27th in the world and was the bronze medallist at the 2014 World Badminton Championships. In contrast, 139th-ranked Kean Yew is playing his first SEA Games and did not even expect to make it past the first round.
However, it was not meant to be for Nguyen, who could not match up to Kean Yew’s speed and physicality on court, especially in many of the long rallies that the pair had.
In the first set, Kean Yew’s well-placed shots and powerful smashes seemed to throw Nguyen off his game and the youngster even led by seven points at one stage of the set. He later took the first set 21-16.
Unfazed by Kean Yew’s strong showing, Nguyen capitalised on Kean Yew’s weakness at net shots by playing close to the net in the second set. Fatigue had also set in for Kean Yew by this point and he slowed down enough for Nguyen to win the set 21-15, setting up a showdown in the rubber set.
Kean Yew came back swinging in the third set to lead 5-1 at the beginning, exciting the Singapore fans with his athleticism. Buoyed by cheers of “Let’s go, Kean Yew!” from the home crowd, Kean Yew saw off a strong comeback by his Vietnamese opponent to win the set 21-17 and the game.
Kean Yew was beaming with joy after what he said was the biggest win of his career. “This is my second breakthrough. Every time I play, it’s very close, but I lose (every time). Today, I learned not to give up,” he said.
On his strategy coming into the match, Kean Yew said, “I just try to overcome his speed… In the second set, I gave away a bit, but at the same time, I also tried to waste his energy, so I can come back even more.”
Kean Yew faces Cambodia’s Chanmara Tep in the quarter-finals on Sunday, June 14, 2015 at 4.15pm.
In the other men’s singles match, crowd-favourite Derek Wong claimed an easy victory over Cambodia’s Cheng Phor Rom. He took just 19 minutes to win in straight sets 21-10, 21-7.
Against a 862nd-ranked Cheng, Derek, who is ranked much higher at 52, said he took the match as an opportunity to practice a variation of shots that he could use against tougher opponents.
“Today’s opponent was a slightly easier opponent compared to previous matches that I have played, like against Thailand (in the men’s team semi-finals). I just need to keep myself focused and try out more variations of shots during the match, so I can prepare for tomorrow’s hard games,” Derek said.
He next faces the number one seed, Thailand’s T. Saensomboonsuk, on Sunday, June 14 at 3.30pm. Derek had previously beaten Saensomboonsuk 21-18, 21-19 in the men’s team semi-final on Thursday, June 11.
Derek said of his next match-up, “I will definitely try to do the same thing that I did in the team event, because this Thai guy is the number one seed for this tournament. So beating him will be one step forward to getting the gold medal.”
Men’s Singles (Round of 16) Results
Loh Kean Yew (SIN) 2 Nguyen Tien Min (VIE) 1
(21-16, 15-21, 21-17)
Derek Wong (SIN) 2 Cheng Phor Rom (CAM) 0
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