The disarming smile and lightning speed that mesmerised badminton fans at the World Championship last month has suddenly made Loh Kean Yew the star attraction around the globe.
Singapore’s first World Championships gold medallist is still basking in that glory, even posing for pictures with fellow players on the eve of the Yonex-Sunrise India Open, which is a part of the HSBC BWF World Tour 500 tournament series.
The 24-year-old admits that he hasn’t got enough time to train after his triumph in Huelva, Spain, but wants to start the New Year by putting his best foot forward.
Loh, seeded fifth at the Yonex-Sunrise India Open, defeated Kidambi Srikanth in the World Championships final and the Indian is expected to be his biggest challenger at the KD Jadhav Indoor Hall along with bronze medallist Lakshya Sen, who is playing in this tournament for the first time.
“There are a lot of good players here and it is not going to be an easy competition for sure. Everyone is coming here to do well… same for me too. I also want to do well and I also want to win this tournament,” said Loh, who will open his campaign against Canada’s Xiaodong Sheng on Tuesday.
Before going to Spain, Loh had trained in Dubai with Tokyo Olympics champion Viktor Axelsen and Sen and said the young Indian was an extremely talented player.
“He is a very good friend of mine and I actually have a very good relationship and I am happy to see him do well in his first world championship,” Loh added.
The Singaporean is aware that he would be the player to beat this year after the stupendous run in the World Championship but points out that it won’t be easy to maintain the same form in every tournament.
“I ended the year on a high so it was a good year… Nobody will always win. The pressure is always there. I just hope that I can play the best and I can perform,” he added.
Manu Atri -Sumeeth Reddy withdraw from Doubles
Meanwhile, experienced Indian men’s doubles combination of B Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Atri along with men’s singles fourth seed Kantaphon Wangcharoen of Thailand have withdrawn from the competition.
However, Sumeeth will be in action in mixed doubles alongside Ashwini Ponnappa with the pair taking on second seeds Rodion Alimov and Alina Davletova in the opening round.
Among women’s players, eighth seed Fitriani Fitriani and women’s doubles top seeds Jongkolphan Kititharakul and Rawinda Projongjai of Thailand have also pulled out.