Malaysia’s Asian champion Lee Zii Jia extended his winning record against Singapore’s world champion Loh Kean Yew to 6-2 with a hard-fought 21-18, 16-21, 22-20 win in the Indonesia Open men’s singles quarter-final on Friday (June 17).
In the 65-minute thriller, both players took turns to go on mini runs in the latest instalment of the rivalry between two 24-year-olds, who were both junior players growing up in Malaysia before Loh moved to Singapore as a 13-year-old.
Despite struggling with the drift, world No. 5 Lee seized the initiative earlier on, but Loh managed to keep pace and entered the interval with an 11-9 advantage.
The Singaporean was still leading 17-16 when Lee mounted his comeback, which was virtually sealed by two superb full-stretch saves to make it 20-18, before requiring just one game point to take the opener.
The second game followed a similar vein, although it was world No. 9 Loh who made the strong start this time as he raced to a 4-0 lead with the boisterous Istora Senayan crowd chanting his name.
Lee caught up at 6-6 and 11-11, but paid the price for his all-out attack as several of his smashes went wide as Loh forced a decider.
They were once again neck and neck in the rubber game, with Loh looking like he would overcome a few net cords that went against him as he came from behind to lead 20-19.
But his familiar foe capitalised on his hastiness to fight back, before an angled drop shot sealed victory and a semi-final meeting with either Denmark’s world No. 1 and Olympic champion Viktor Axelsen or Indonesia’s sixth-ranked Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in Saturday’s semi-final.
Loh will pick up US$6,600 (S$9,150) in prize money and turn his sights to the June 28-July 3 Malaysia Open.