Badminton: S'pore shuttler Yeo bounces back with first-round win at Thailand Open

SINGAPORE – Singapore shuttler Yeo Jia Min snapped an 11-game losing streak dating back to Oct 2019 with a resolute 22-20, 21-18 win over Indonesia’s world No. 35 Ruselli Hartawan in the women’s singles first round at the Toyota Thailand Open on Wednesday (Jan 20).

World No. 26 Yeo told The Straits Times: “I’m aware I did not win in a few competitions last year, but I just continued believing in the process. I’m happy with today’s win and will work to keep improving.”

Down 20-17 in the first set, the 21-year-old Singaporean faced three game points but impressively reeled off five points on the trot to take a 1-0 lead.

Yeo was also trailing 11-7 in the second game but clawed her way back to end her winless drought.

The result was a welcome relief after last week’s defeat by Thailand’s world No. 5 Ratchanok Intanon in the opening round of the Yonex Thailand Open.

She said: “After last week’s loss, Coach (Kelvin Ho) and I focused on when to build rallies and when to attack more. Towards the end of the first set (when Yeo was trailing), I just focused on what I could control.

“I was a little passive last week and this time I took more initiative on court.”

Her reward is a round-of-16 match on Thursday against South Korean prodigy An Se-young, who swatted aside Thailand’s world No. 28 Phittayaporn Chaiwan 21-12, 21-8.

Yeo has a 1-1 record against the 18-year-old An, having beaten the world No. 9 at the 2019 Hyderabad Open before a loss at last year’s Badminton Asia Team Championships.

“Though I beat her before, I will treat every match like a new one. She is a patient player with few unforced errors, so I have to be make smart decisions tomorrow and keep my focus well,” said Yeo.

In the men’s singles, Singapore’s top male shuttler Loh Kean Yew suffered another turnaround defeat at Bangkok’s Impact Arena as he fell 14-21, 21-16, 21-10 to Thailand’s world No. 29 and three-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn in 65 minutes.

This comes after world No. 38 Loh had led Indonesia’s world No. 7 Jonathan Christie by one game before losing 13-21, 21-10, 21-16 in the first round of the Yonex Thailand Open last week.

The Indonesian was knocked out of the first round yesterday with a shock defeat by India’s world No. 28 H.S. Prannoy, who hung on despite a late shoulder injury.

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There were also upsets in the mixed doubles and women’s doubles, with Indonesia’s second seeds Praveen Jordan and Melati Daeva Oktavianti stunned by little-known French pair Thom Gicquel and Delphine Delrue 14-21, 21-9, 21-13, while women’s doubles pair Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan of Malaysia defeated South Korean sixth seeds Chang Ye-na and Kim Hye-rin 16-21, 21-15, 27-25.

Players in both tournaments in Bangkok have been competing in a biosecure bubble without spectators, although the first tournament was overshadowed by three positive coronavirus cases last week, as well as a fourth overnight on Tuesday – India’s Sai Praneeth, whose opponent Daren Liew of Malaysia received a walkover.

– Additional reporting by AFP

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