For a brief moment, the unthinkable seemed possible.
The Singapore men's team led top seeds and world No. 1 China 2-1 in a group encounter at the Badminton Asia Team Championships in Hyderabad, India yesterday.
While they did field a second-string team, the Chinese avoided one of the biggest upsets this year when they won the next two matches to seal a 3-2 triumph in the best-of-five encounter, although Singapore's shuttlers will go into their match against hosts India tomorrow with a shot of confidence.
The encounter started off in routine fashion when Singapore's world No. 49 Derek Wong lost 21-11, 21-12 to China's world No. 8 Tian Houwei in the men's singles.
But the Singaporean shuttlers, in particular the Loh brothers, rallied to turn the tie on its head.
In the opening men's doubles, the Republic's world No. 90 pair of Loh Kean Hean and Terry Hee stunned Liu Xiaolong and Qiu Zihan (world No. 11) 16-21, 21-13, 21-11.
Not to be outdone, SEA Games bronze medallist and world No. 167 Loh Kean Yew sprung another surprise by beating world No. 11 Wang Zhengming 21-15, 21-16.
But normal service resumed when Li Junhui and Liu Yuchen beat Danny Bawa Chrisnanta and Hendra Wijaya 21-18, 21-14 in the second men's doubles.
In the rubber match, 18-year-old Ryan Ng belied his world No. 377 ranking to take world No. 56 Qiao Bin the distance, going down 21-15, 19-21, 21-13.
Kean Yew, 18, said afterwards: "We went into this game wanting to give China a good fight and we did more than we expected.
"Seeing Kean Hean and Terry win their doubles against a more experienced pair gave me more confidence to play my best."
National coach Chua Yong Joo hailed the effort of his young side and said: "The players, especially the younger ones, were fearless.
We will now have to analyse what went right and wrong and approach the tie against India like how we prepared against China."
This article was first published on Feb 16, 2016.
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