A 24-year-old not reckoned among the world’s elite even a few weeks ago burst into the constellation of World Championships-winning stars on Sunday. And as curtains fell on the TotalEnergies BWF World Championships 2021, Singapore had its first gold medal — through Loh Kean Yew.
The nimble feet, the steady hand, and the sizzling smashes that had taken down top five players like Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen on previous days were on view once again, this time against Kidambi Srikanth. So too were the catlike lunges that blunted sure-shot winners from the other end.
For his part, Kidambi did well to stay in the match after Loh’s blazing attacking display in the opening game. The Indian showed craft and control in the exchanges to rein in his opponent, but was guilty of blowing his chances with hits that wandered wide. Against an opponent in red-hot form, Kidambi could ill-afford the number of mistakes that he made.
Having spectacularly returned a series of smashes for match point, the title was Loh’s after Kidambi misjudged a lift to the deep.
“I cannot really think. At the start of the year I just didn’t think this would happen. I’m very very very happy,” said Loh.
“Srikanth’s a great attacking player, I had to prepare to defend well. It wasn’t easy to handle the pressure. I just tried to calm myself. I managed to stay patient. Bangkok (Asian Leg) was a wake-up call after not having a lot of competitions, it told me I was far away from the top players. So that motivated me to train and prepare for the Olympics. After that I trained with Viktor (Axelsen) and gained experience and I’m very happy to achieve this.”
Kidambi rued his inability to convert his chances, but credited his opponent for keeping up the pressure all through the match.
“I had my chances in both games. I had a healthy lead in the opening game. Overall, I just wasn’t able to finish it, but he played very well. Sometimes these things happen. I tried to stay in the match, and it worked in the second game.
“Last time I played him was four years ago, that’s a very long time. He has matured as a player, and he did very well.”