SINGAPORE — Loh Kean Yew will begin his Badminton World Championships men's singles title defence against Spain's world No.59 Pablo Abian, with the Singaporean given a relatively comfortable passage until the quarter-finals.
Following the official draw on Wednesday (10 August) for the championships - to be held from 22 to 28 August in Tokyo - the world No.9 will avoid the likes of world No.1 Viktor Axelsen, as well as a host of players who had recently defeated him, until the final.
Those players include Taiwan's Chou Tien-chen, whom he fell to in June's Indonesia Masters semi-finals; Indonesia's Anthony Sinisuka Ginting, who defeated him in last month's Singapore Open; and Malaysia's Ng Tze Yong, who stunned the 25-year-old at the recent Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
Still, Loh has to contend with several tricky opponents in his side of the draw. He could meet Hong Kong veteran and world No.11 Angus Ng as early as the round of 16. In the quarter-finals, he could face world No.3 Anders Antonsen - whom he defeated en route to his world title in Spain last December - or Thailand's Kunlavut Vitidsarn, whom he lost to in the final of the SEA Games singles competition.
In the semi-finals, he could face long-time rival Lee Zii Jia of Malaysia, newly-crowed Commonwealth Games champion Lakshya Sen, or Japan's world No.2 Kento Momota.
Loh had created a memorable slice of sporting history for Singapore last December, as he became the city-state's first world champion in Huelva, Spain, defeating India's Kidambi Srikanth in the World Championships men's singles final.
That stunning triumph, a culmination of a period of red-hot form, allowed him to climb up the world rankings from No.44 last October to No.9.
Mixed doubles duo open campaign against English pair
Singapore's newly-crowned Commonwealth Games mixed doubles champions Terry Hee and Jessica Tan will begin their world championships campaign against England's Callum Hemming and Jessica Pugh in the round of 64.
Should they win the tie, the unseeded husband-wife duo - who clinched only Singapore's second-ever badminton gold at the Games - will next face Japan's 12th-seeded Yuki Kaneko and Misaki Matsumoto, who received a bye into the round of 32.
Hee and Tan are in the same bracket as Thailand's world No.2 pair of Dechapol Punvaranukroh and Sapsiree Taerattanachai, and could meet them in the quarter-finals should they advance to the stage.
Meanwhile, Singapore's top women's shuttler Yeo Jia Min, who earned a bronze medal in her singles competition at the Commonwealth Games, is drawn to face South Korea's world No.43 Sim Yu-jin in her opening round.
The world No.18 is drawn in the same half as Taiwan's world No.2 Tai Tzu-ying, China's world No.4 Chen Yufei and Thailand's former world champion Ratchanok Intanon.
Hee will also be taking part in the men's doubles competition with Loh's elder brother Kean Hean, as they are set to face France's Cristo Popov and Toma Junior Popov in the opening round.
Women's doubles pair Jin Yujia and Crystal Wong will take on Austria's Serena Au Yeong and Katharina Hochmeir in their opening-round tie, while Jason Teh will begin his men's singles campaign against the Netherlands' Mark Caljouw.
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