Badminton: Emotional Chen gets one last bow

After devoting almost two decades of his life to badminton, national player Ashton Chen had hoped to bid farewell to a home crowd in the main singles draw of the OUE Singapore Open.

But the 25-year-old faltered in the last qualifying round of the men's singles yesterday when he lost 18-21, 19-21 to Malaysia's Mohamad Arif Abdul Latif.

Still, Chen, who will leave the national set-up after the tournament to focus on studies, will feature today, after getting through the men's doubles qualifiers with Robin Gonansa. But he could not help but be overwhelmed by emotions after the singles match.

"It's my last international singles match so I wanted to do my best," he said after taking time to collect himself.

Chen, who earlier beat team-mate Huang Chao 21-17, 21-13, could only rue a litany of unforced errors that tilted the balance his opponent's way.

"I just kept making simple mistakes and gave a lot of points away. I think I could've done better," he added.

The loss did not stop a supporter from congratulating Chen after the match, before adding that the shuttler's decision to call it a day is a big loss to the country.

Besides Chen, three other Singapore men's singles players - Gonansa, Loh Kean Yew and Sean Lee - also failed to qualify for the main draw.

In the men's doubles, Chen and Gonansa have an uphill task against reigning world champions, defending champions and top seeds Mohammad Ahsan and Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.

Said Chen: "We're just going to go all out to enjoy the match and play my best. I want to have fun and have a good match with my partner."

Said Gonansa of his partner: "He's my buddy, my senior, my friend."

Meanwhile, the national team's aim of improving on last year's poor showing is on track, with three other doubles pairs also earning berths in the main draw.

Newly-crowned Malaysia Open Grand Prix Gold champions Chayut Triyachart and Danny Bawa Chrisnanta were largely untroubled in the qualifiers.

They defeated Malaysians Haw Yong Yuan and Kong Keat Zhen 21-16, 21-15, before easing past Indonesians Saputra Albert and Yonathan Suryatama Dasuki 21-15, 21-15.

The pair will play Thais Maneepong Jongjit and Nipitphon Puangpuapech today.

A mammoth task then awaits Triyachart. He will team up with Yao Lei to play Tontowi Ahmad and Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia, the world and defending champions, in the mixed doubles.

Fu Mingtian and Terry Hee will also face Indonesian opposition in the form of Riky Widianto and Puspita Richi Dili.

This article was published on April 9 in The Straits Times.

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