A historic high for Singapore shuttler Loh
Kean Yew, 21, slays five-time world champion Lin Dan for his first title on the BWF World Tour
His five victories over Chinese players earned him the nickname the "Chinese Slayer" by the online community during his fairy-tale run at the Thailand Masters, but that mantle does not sit comfortably with Singaporean shuttler Loh Kean Yew.
The 21-year-old told The Straits Times: "It's unnecessary pressure, and not so nice. Just call me by my name lah, aiyoh."
The world badminton fraternity will surely know his name by now after his stunning 21-19, 21-18 victory over Chinese legend Lin Dan in the men's singles final at the US$150,000 (S$204,000) Princess Sirivannavari Thailand Masters in Bangkok yesterday.
As the Chinese saying goes, a new-born calf has no fear of the tiger.
Loh, who entered the encounter with just four lower-tier titles to his name compared to Lin's 65 that includes two Olympic golds and five world titles, proved to be just that in the pulsating 46-minute match.
He took the game to the 35-year-old veteran from the off, directing a smash at Lin's body that went unreturned to earn the first point.
The Chinese then used his experience and moments of magic to open up a 19-14 lead, but Loh stayed patient, chasing lost causes for precious points, forcing Lin into unforced errors to win seven straight points to claim the first game.
The second game followed a similar vein, with Loh opening the scoring but Lin managing to open up a 13-6 gap.
Remarkably, the qualifier managed to reel in his more illustrious rival and win over the crowd. The turning point was perhaps the enthralling 49-shot rally that culminated in Loh firing the shuttlecock into Lin's chest to make it 13-8.
Loh held his racket up to apologise, but there was definitely no remorse as he cranked up the pressure on Lin.
As Lin started to show signs of fatigue, Loh did not require a rubber set as he smashed within the side line to seal victory before falling on his back in ecstacy.
"It is an honour to play against Lin Dan. This has been my dream since I was young," said Loh.
"I was nervous... I just kept telling myself to stay focused. I think my younger age helped me recover faster than him and I was able to outrun him."
There was no time to celebrate with his US$11,250 winner's cheque, however. Hours after the biggest win of his career, Loh was off to Denmark, where he has a league game today for Langhoj Badminton Club, whom he is contracted to until the end of this month.
The 2015 SEA Games men's singles bronze medallist is aiming for another podium finish at the Asean meet this year, and qualification for next year's Olympics.
This is the first time Loh has reached the final of a Level 5 (Super 300) tournament on the Badminton World Federation's World Tour and won.
National singles coach Kelvin Ho said: "What Kean Yew did right was being able to be patient and focused, yet calm and daring to handle certain situations.
"He should take this win as motivation to study more of his own game and that of other world-class players, and continue to improve."