SINGAPORE: Badminton player Loh Kean Yew has sealed his place in the history books by becoming the first Singaporean to win a BWF World Championships title.
The world number 22 beat India’s Kidambi Srikanth 21-15, 22-20 in the men’s singles final in Huelva, Spain, on Sunday (Dec 19) to cap off a fairytale run.
Unseeded in the tournament, Loh stunned the likes of world number one Viktor Axelsen and world number three Anders Antonsen en route to taking the crown.
The match was the second career meeting between both players. Loh had not beaten world no 14 Srikanth prior to this clash.
And it was his opponent who took the initiative in the first, as he raced to a 9-3 lead. While a series of nifty net returns help Loh claw his way back, he would trail 7-11 going into the interval.
Yet the Singaporean remained mentally unflappable and he roared back to life with a 13-12 lead. Loh would hold firm and then go on to take the first.
However, the Indian was far from done and his powerful smashes caused problems for Loh as he took a 9-6 lead. Yet the Singaporean would strike back and go ahead 11-9.
And Srikanth came back with a vengeance, edging ahead 17-15. But Loh showed his mettle and would go on to seal the victory.
Earlier in the tournament, Loh upset world number one Axelsen in the first round, before going on to cruise past Austria's Luka Wraber in 25 minutes.
Loh then thrashed Thailand’s Kantaphon Wangcharoen in their round of 16 clash on Thursday, taking the match in just 30 minutes.
He then beat India’s HS Prannoy in straight games to guarantee himself of at least a joint-bronze, before going on to claim a victory over Dane Antonsen.
In the previous edition of the World Championships, Loh made the last 16 before being knocked out by Chou Tien-Chen.
The victory marks the best finish for a Singaporean in any edition of the World Championships.
Yeo Jia Min had reached the women’s singles quarter-finals in the previous edition of the World Championships, while Ronald Susilo was also eliminated in the same stage in 2007.
The mixed doubles pair of Chayut Triyachart and Yao Lei also reached the quarters in 2011, while Jiang Yanmei and Li Yujia also achieved the same feat in 2007 for the women’s doubles.
Loh won his first career BWF World Tour Super 500 title at the Hylo Open last month. He also took the Dutch Open crown in October.
Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong posted a congratulatory note shortly after Loh won the title on Sunday.
In a Facebook post, Mr Lee wrote: "Well done, Kean Yew! You do Singapore proud. Looking forward to your next success!"