Loh Kean Yew off to fast start at Japan Open

In a tournament sure to be a survival of the fittest, the 2021 world champion eased past Zhao Junpeng in Osaka as the 'Minions' and Matsumoto/Nagahara progressed in doubles.

By Shintaro Kano
Picture by 2022 Getty Images

Loh Kean Yew beat world bronze medallist Zhao Junpeng 21-15, 21-9 in a tense opening-round affair as the Japan Open got under way in Osaka on Tuesday (30 August).

Loh - dethroned as world champion in Tokyo last week by eventual runner-up Kunlavut Vitidsarn - was in charge from the outset and made relatively quick work of Zhao in 32 minutes.

Last week in the round of 16, Zhao stunned championship favourite Lee Zii Jia and then eliminated Prannoy H.S. in the quarter-finals. But that run in Tokyo clearly came at a cost with the Chinese below his best in this encounter.

With the Japan Open getting underway less than 48 hours after the conclusion of the first World Championships held in Japan, there will be plenty of fatigued players on show this week.

"I needed to push myself to remain focused, to have my game", Loh said. "Definitely a bit tired after last week but almost everyone here is the same.

"We just arrived the day before and we only had one day of rest so it's not easy to keep playing. Back to back, it definitely takes a toll on your body. I just try my best.

"I just take it one match at a time. We'll see how it goes".

There were notable withdrawals on the first morning of the tournament in the Maruzen Intec Arena with the men's singles and doubles champions from last week - Viktor Axelsen and Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik - pulling out.

With Axelsen out of the picture, this tournament looks even more wide open with Loh - fitness permitting - among the contenders.

Reigning Olympic women's doubles champion Apriyani Rahayu* and new partner* Siti Fadia Silva Ramadhanti kicked off the day by winning 21-15, 21-15 over Catherine Choi/Josephine Wu.

Men's doubles world No. 1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon/Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo rebounded from their shock exit at the Worlds by dismissing Malaysia's Man Wei Chong/Kai Wun Tee -coming through 23-21, 21-19.

The Minions - who were knocked out in the second round in Tokyo by Ben Lane/Sean Vendy - were down 10-6 in the second game, having to claw their way back after being forced to deuce in the first set.

The Indonesians looked spent following their first time out in Osaka.

"We made a few adjustments for our first match but I'm really glad we managed to win today", Gideon said.

Added Sukamuljo, "We aim to perform to the best of our ability at any tournament and it's no different this time around".

Lane and Vendy on Tuesday went the distance to knock out the Japanese duo of Matsui Keiichiro/Takeuchi Yoshinori.

Two-time women's doubles world champions and bronze medallists last week in Tokyo, Matsumoto Mayu and Nagahara Wakana got off to a solid start, beating compatriots Iwanaga Rin and Nakanishi Kin 21-14, 21-11.

Prannoy caught a break on this day as his Hong Kong opponent Ng Ka Long Angus retired in the first game with the score at 11-10. Ng had also retired in Tokyo.


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