PETALING JAYA: Singles shuttler Soniia Cheah has refused to rule herself out of contention for a medal at the Philippines SEA Games next month.
The 26-year-old was beaten 15-21,16-21 by Singapore’s rising star Yeo Jia Min in the first round of the French Open on Tuesday.
It was world No. 32 Soniia’s second defeat to a SEA Games rival, having also lost to Indonesia’s Gregoria Mariska Tunjung at the Korean Open three weeks ago.
These defeats certainly don’t augur well for Soniia as Malaysia are pinning their hopes on her to retain the singles gold at the biennial Games.
In Kuala Lumpur two years ago, Soniia settled for silver after losing to teammate Goh Jin Wei, who claimed the hosts’ only gold in badminton.
Jin Wei, however, will not be defending her title as she has just undergone surgery to remove part of her colon last week.
Jia Min, just 20, has been making waves and is set to pose a real threat at the Games.
In August, she made heads turn by ousting world No. 1 Akane Yamaguchi of Japan en route to reaching the quarter-finals of the World Championships.
A week prior to the event, she captured the Hyderabad Open for her maiden World Tour title.
Besides Jia Min and Gregoria, Soniia can also a expect strong challenge from Thailand.
The Thais are not expected to field their ace Ratchanok Intanon, but Pornpawee Chochuwong and Busanan Ongbamrungphan, ranked in the top 20, are just as formidable.
Soniia is taking her recent struggle positively and has vowed to bounce back.
“I admit that I’m going through the lowest point of my career, ” said Soniia.
“The only thing I can do now is to keep trying and get back to my peak. I always stand a chance when I try.
“In badminton, I not only learn how to win, but also learn not to give up when you are down.
“I will get back on my feet and fight again.
“I can’t control what the outcome is, but this is what I’m going to do now no matter how bad the criticism is about me.”
Soniia, however, did impress at the Japan and Thailand Opens in July.
She gave a good account of herself by beating three Chinese rivals – He Bingjiao (No. 7), Cai Yanyan (No. 18) and 2012 London Olympic champion Li Xuerui (No. 21).
Meanwhile, Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie were also eliminated in the first round as they went down fighting 21-19,19-21,15-21 to world No. 1 Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong.
Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing, meanwhile, finally ended their first-round jinx in three tournaments when they defeated compatriots Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying 19-21,21-16,21-13 to set up a clash against Rinov Rivaldy-Pitha Haningtyas Mentari of Indonesia.
Joining them in the second round are two women’s doubles pairs Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean and Vivian Hoo-Yap Cheng Wen.
FIRST ROUND RESULTS
Men’s singles: Lin Dan (Chn) bt Brice Leverdez (Fra) 21-12,21-9; Hans-Kristian Vittinghus (Den) bt Kantaphon Wangcharoen (Tha) 21-10,21-15; Angus Ng Ka Long (Hkg) bt P. Kashyap (Ind) 21-11,21-9; Kenta Nishimoto (Jpn) bt Sameer Verma (Ind) 20-22,21-18,21-18; Chou Tien-chen (Tpe) bt K. Srikanth (Ind) 15-21,21-7,21-14; Anders Antonsen (Den) bt Misha Zilberman (Isr) 21-10,21-8.
Men’s doubles: Wahyu Nayaka Arya Pangkaryanira-Ade Yusuf Santoso (Ina) bt Bodin Isara-Maneepong Jongjit (Tha) 21-13,21-14; Lee Yang-Wang Chi-lin (Tpe) bt Lee Jhe-huei-Yang Po-hsuan (Tpe) 21-10,18-21,21-13; Liao Min-chun-Su Ching-heng (Tpe) bt Phillip Chew-Ryan Chew (US) 21-11,21-14; Han Chengkai-Zhou Haodong (Chn) bt Mark Lamsfuss-Marvin Seidel (Ger) 21-17,18-21,21-16; Mathias Boe-Mads Conrad-Petersen (Den) bt Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Rian Ardianto (Ina) 21-12,21-16; Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen (Chn) bt Mathias Bay-Smidt-Lasse Molhede (Den) 21-13,21-11.
*Malaysians onlyWomen’s singles: Yeo Jia Min (Sin) bt Soniia Cheah (Mas) 21-15,21-16.
Women’s doubles: Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean (Mas) bt Nadia Fankhauser-Iris Tabeling (Sui-Ned) 21-10,21-15.
Mixed doubles: Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong (Chn) bt Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie (Mas) 19-21,21-19,21-15; Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing (Mas) bt Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying (Mas) 19-21,21-16,21-13.