Singapore’s hopes for a badminton podium finish at the 2015 SEA Games individual competition were all but secure as men’s singles player Loh Kean Yew and men’s doubles pair Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart won their respective quarterfinal matches to ensure at least a bronze medal. Local shuttler Wong Shoon Keat previously held the men’s singles championship in 1983, while no doubles pair has ever clinched a medal before.
Their compatriots did not fare as well, however, as their Southeast Asian competitors proved far too strong and experienced an opponent in the other matchups.
First on the courts was Singapore’s mixed doubles pair Terry Hee Yong Kai and Tan Wei Han, who fell 21-12 in the first game against their stronger Thai opponents Sudket Prapakamol and Sapsiree Taerattanachai. But backed by the boisterous crowd, Hee and Tan took their match to three games after clinching the second 22-20, to the delight of the home supporters. In a closely fought third game, Prapakamol and Taerattanachai managed to outplay the Singaporeans to end the match at 21-17.
Liang Xiaoyu’s racket falls out of her hands and she fails to return the shot. Photo: Eunice Tan/SINGSOC
Liang Xiaoyu, Singapore’s only women’s singles representative, initially commanded the run of play against Indonesia’s Hanna Ramadini, but eventually relinquished her advantage to fall 21-15 in the first game. To cheers of encouragement from the home supporters, Liang flourished in the second as she stormed to a 12-5 lead, before taking the game 21-11. Ramadini did not fold as hoped, but held on in the rubber game and won 21-14, progressing to the semifinals.
Singapore’s Derek Wong concentrates on Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk’s return. Photo: Eunice Tan/SINGSOC
Men’s singles player Derek Wong, widely considered to be Singapore’s best chance at an individual competition medal, faced off against world number nine and 2013 SEA Games singles gold medallist Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk. The Thai’s experience was displayed in the first game as he overpowered his opponent to win by three points. Wong fought back by producing a series of superb smashes to clinch the second game 21-17. Saensomboonsuk raced to a 10-3 lead in the match decider, but was given a scare by the Singaporean as the gap was slowly reduced to 14-12. The defending champion ultimately prevailed with several breathtaking down-the-line shots and sealed the game at 21-13.
Singapore’s Loh Kean Yew anticipates his Cambodian opponent Chanmara Tep’s shot. Photo: Eunice Tan/SINGSOC
The crowd was not deterred by Wong’s loss, and rallied behind 17-year-old Loh Kean Yew as he took to the court for the following match against Cambodia’s Chanmara Tep. Loh, ranked 139th in the world, had defeated Vietnamese veteran Nguyen Tien Minh (ranked 28th) in the RO16 yesterday. Coming into the quarterfinals brimming with confidence, he gave his Cambodian opponent no chance to counter and powered through the first game 21-7, before taking the second with a similar score line.
Singapore’s last match of the day featured men’s doubles pair Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Chayut Triyachart, who battled against Thailand’s Pakkawat Vilailak and Wannawat Ampunsuwan. The first game went to the Singaporeans 21-19, whose supporters remained at the Singapore Indoor Stadium to cheer them on. The Thais countered by taking the second game 21-17, and the crowd braced themselves for a nail-biting final showdown. Chrisnanta and Triyachart dominated most of the game, before Thailand committed a service error at match point to Singapore to hand their opponents the match. The jubilant home fans watched as history was made – Singapore has yet to achieve any medals in any doubles competition in the SEA Games, and today’s victory meant that the doubles pair was ensured of a bronze, and will progress to the semifinals tomorrow to continue their quest for gold.
In the other courts, 28-year-old Malaysian shuttler Chong Wei Feng faced off against Christie Jonatan of Indonesia. Ranked 17th globally, Chong was the favourite to win the match as the 17-year-old Indonesian had considerably less experience. But Jonatan defied the odds and won the first game by close margin of 22-20. Chong was not to be dismissed, as he fought back to clinch the second game 21-19. The match decider was naturally intense as both players battled tooth and nail to win every point available. However, experience eventually triumphed age when Chong closed the match at 21-18, earning himself a spot in the semifinal.
Medics were quick to assist in alleviating Boonsak Ponsana’s injury. Photo: Eunice Tan/SINGSOC
The crowd was in for a treat as the electrifying match between Malaysia’s Mohamad Arif Abdul Latif and Thailand’s Boonsak Ponsana commenced early in the evening. Both demonstrated their prowess in a match where the epitome of badminton skills was showcased. Even though both players were drained, they still managed to maintain their high-level performance, and would try to finish their opponent off with either a kill or drop shot. In terms of skill, they were evenly matched as could be deduced from the score line, where the players constantly traded points. Ponsana, 33, one of the greatest shuttlers in Thai history, seemed to suffer from a foot-related injury during the last game of the match. He requested for the game to be temporarily halted, and called for medical attention. Fortunately, it did not seem to affect his performance and in no time he was back on his feet and continued with the game. However, despite all efforts, his Malaysian won the match with a score of 22-20, 19-21, 21-19.
Semifinal fixtures on 15 June
Tanongsak SAENSOMBOONSUK (THA) vs. CHONG Wei Feng (MAS)
LOH Kean Yew (SIN) vs. Mohamad Arif ABDUL LATIF (MAS)
Busanan ONGBUMRUNGPA (THA) vs. VU Thi Trang (VIE)
Hanna RAMADINI (INA) vs. GOH Jin Wei (MAS)
Danny Bawa Chrisnanta / Chayut Triyachart (SIN) vs. Ricky KARANDASUWARDI / Angga PRATAMA (INA)
Ronel ESTANISLAO / Philip Joner ESCUETA (PHI) vs. Marcus Fernaldi GIDEON / Kevin Sanjaya SUKAMULJO (INA)
Vivian HOO Kah Mun / WOON Khe Wei (MAS) vs. Anggia Shitta AWANDA / Ni Ketut MAHADEWI (INA)
Maretha Dea GIOVANI / Suci Rizki ANDINI (INA) vs. Amelia Alicia ANSCELLY / SOONG Fie Cho (MAS)
CHAN Peng Soon / GOH Liu Ying (MAS) vs. Riky WIDIANTO / Richi Puspita DILI (INA)
Praveen JORDAN / Debby SUSANTO (INA) vs. Sudket PRAPAKAMOL / Sapsiree TAERATTANACHAI (THA)
This author of this article is a volunteer content producer with Team Nila. For more content produced by Team Nila, please head to the 28th SEA Games Social Wall.