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SINGAPORE — The first round of the Singapore Badminton Open main draw began on Wednesday (13 July) with a slew of exits by former world No.1s, current top-10 shuttlers and recent winners. Thankfully for the local fans, Singapore's reigning world champion Loh Kean Yew did not follow suit.
The 25-year-old world No.9, who is bidding to become the first Singaporean men's singles Open champion since 1962, proved too strong for France's world No.41 Brice Leverdez, winning 21-10, 21-11 in just 31 minutes and thrilling his supporters with explosive smashes and sublime net play.
“I’m so happy to see so many supporters here and also very pleased that I’ve won my first match,” said Loh, who next faces veteran Indonesian and 2013 Singapore Open winner Tommy Sugiarto.
“Tommy’s a very experienced player and it’s not going to be easy. I have to go back and prepare, speak to my coach and come up with a solid game plan.”
Singapore's top women's shuttler Yeo Jia Min also had a comfortable first-round outing, beating Poland's Jordan Hart 21-12, 21-9 to advance in 25 minutes.
Slew of stunning exits
While Loh and Yeo had little trouble in reaching the round of 16, there were a slew of stunning exits at the Singapore Indoor Stadium on Wednesday.
India's former men's world No.1 Kidambi Srikanth - whom Loh had defeated in the Badminton World Championships final to earn his monumental triumph - was upset by his 77th-ranked compatriot Mithun Manjunath 21-17, 15-21, 21-18.
More surprises came when sixth-seeded Angus Ng of Hong Kong was eliminated by Malaysia's Ng Tze Yong, losing 16-21, 17-21. Another shock came when Indonesia's Chico Aura Dwi Wardoyo, who earned the biggest title of his career last week when he won at the Malaysia Masters, was brought back down to earth by Canada's Brian Yang, falling 12-21, 17-21.
Then came even more carnage in the women's singles. Top seed and world No.2 Tai Tzu-ying appeared to have advanced after defeating her Taiwanese compatriot Pai Yu-po 21-17, 21-16 in her opening round. However, the former women's world No.1 later announced her withdrawal from the Open after suffering a hamstring injury during the match.
Another ex-women's world No.1, Thailand's Ratchanok Intanon, was also forced to pull out after suffering an ankle injury.after leading 11-9 in her first-round tie against Taiwan's Sung Shuo-yun.
At least Ratchanok's compatriots and mixed doubles top seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai managed to keep their title defence bid alive, as they beat Malaysia’s Choong Hon Jian and Peck Yen Wei 21-16, 21-12.
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