PETALING JAYA: Ng Tze Yong tried everything possible to subdue Kunlavut Vitidsarn but the Thai hotshot showed why he is one of the most improved players this year by outpacing the Malaysian to reach the Singapore Open quarter-finals yesterday.
Tze Yong, the world No. 21, fought back to force the decider in the men’s singles second round match but Kunlavut recovered to secure a 21-18, 22-24, 21-13 win in 66 minutes to storm into the last eight.
After a close first game, the Malaysian was staring at a straight-game defeat at 18-20 but saved two match points to move ahead at 21-20.
Kunlavut drew level but Tze Yong took the next two points to keep his hopes alive.
However, Kunlavut was a different shuttler altogether in the third game and took a runaway 14-4 lead.
Tze Yong managed to reduce the gap to 9-14 but the comeback was a tad too late as Kunlavut secured a 21-13 win to earn his right to meet surprise quarter-finalist Christo Popov of France today.
Popov had ended the hopes of local favourite Loh Kean Yew with a 21-10, 23-21 win in the second round.
Based on current form, it will be difficult for Popov to stop Kunlavut, who won the India Open in January and the Thailand Open at home on Sunday, in the last eight today.
All-England champion Li Shifeng of China also stayed in the hunt as he secured his quarter-final berth after beating compatriot Weng Hongyang, who toppled Malaysian Lee Zii Jia in the opening round, 21-9, 9-21, 21-19 yesterday.