KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia have been short of new talents in the men’s singles department for ages.
Things look set to change following yesterday’s results in the Asian Junior Championships when four boys entered the quarter-finals of the singles event with Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin, Mohd Syawal Ismail and Misbun Ramdan Misbun coming out triumphant to reach the semi-finals.
And 16-year-old Zulfadli Zulkifli could have made it a really glorious day for Malaysian badminton if only he had got the better of China’s top junior Tian Houwei. A lack of stamina and experience saw him going down fighting before losing 21-23, 16-12 in the 50-minute battle.
Earlier, all four had made it a historic day for the nation when they checked into the quarter-finals.
Malaysia never had four boys’ singles players in the last eight of the championships.
Top seed Iskandar will take on Ramdan today, ensuring one place in the final while Syawal could make it an all-Malaysian affair in the final if he can take down Houwei.
Yesterday, Iskandar was the first to check into the last four but he almost muffed it after struggling to find his form in the first game against Pisit Poodchalat of Thailand.
He was slower than usual against the Thai. But spurred on by the home fans, he got back into the groove to knock out Pisit in a 16-21, 21-13, 21-12 win.
“I am happy to make it to the semi-finals for the first time. I was nervous and my hand was stiff in the first game but fortunately I got back my rhythm,” said Iskandar.
“I knew I had a fight on my hand against the Thai, having won thrice and losing twice in previous meetings. He is quite aggressive but I did my best to match him.
“I think today is a very important day for Malaysia. Four of us made it to the quarter-finals and three are in the last four. This is a good achievement.”
On the semi-final against Ramdan, Iskandar said: “I am happy he made it too but I am determined to go all the way and challenge for the title.”
The 18-year-old Ramdan said that he had made his father, the national singles coach Misbun Sidek, a proud man after going through a roller-coaster ride in his 23-21, 14-21, 21-19 win over China’s Li Yisheng.
Ramdan almost blew it after taking an 18-10 lead in the decider but somehow got back into stride to record his best career win in a junior tournament.
“My target was only a quarter-final place but I have surprised myself here. I was quite nervous when my opponent caught up from 10-18 to level it at 18-18. I told myself not to let this chance of making the semi-final slip away.
“I know my father is working hard to raise the standard of the men’s singles department. I am sure I made his day, too,” he said.
He called Misbun, who had made a day trip to Johor for a coaching clinic, to share the good news.
Spotting a fancy style of play, Syawal showed true grit in his hard-fought 21-17, 19-21, 21-16 win over Taiwanese Hao Hsu-jen in a 50-minute match.
“My legs were weak but I pushed myself not to give up. He was leading in the decider but after levelling at 16-16 I found the extra strength to beat him for the first time,” said Syawal, who had lost to the Taiwanese several years ago.
“I have a big task tomorrow (today). I can make it an all-Malaysian final if I can upset the Chinese.
“This will be the driving factor for me to put up another good show,” added Syawal.
Meanwhile, Malaysia’s challenge in the girls’ singles ended when all three – Tee Jing Yi, Florah Ng and Sonia Cheah — crashed out in the third round.
Fourth round (involving Malaysians): Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin bt Hermansah (Ina) 21-17, 21-17; Misbun Ramdan Misbun bt Watanabe Tatsuya (Jpn) 26-24, 7-21, 22-20; Zulfadli Zulkifli bt H.S. Prannoy (Ind) 21-18, 21-14; Mohd Syawal Ismail bt Prinyawat Thongnuam (Tha) 24-22, 21-19
Quarter-finals: Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin bt Pisit Poodchalat (Tha) 16-21, 21-13, 21-12; Misbun Ramdan Misbun bt Li Yisheng (Chn) 23-21, 14-21, 21-19; Tian Houwei (Chn) bt Zulfadli Zulkifli 23-21, 21-16; Mohd Syawal Ismail bt Hao Hsu-jen (Tpe) 21-17, 19-21, 21-16.
Third round (involving Malaysians): Yew Hong Kheng-Ow Yao Han bt Pawarit Supasri-Watchara Buranakruea (Tha) 21-7, 21-15; Goh Jian Hao-Pang Zheng Lin bt Tran Duc Phong-Le Ha Anh (Vie) 21-19, 12-21, 21-19; Nipitphon Phuangphuapet-Tin D. Caballes (Tha) bt Tan Wee Tat-Lau Win Hwi 21-15, 19-21, 22-20; Yeoh Choong Kee-Chooi Kah Ming bt Wang Tianyang-Pei Tianyi (Chn) 22-20, 21-9.
Quarter-finals: Yew Hong Kheng-Ow Yao Han (Mas) bt Berry Anggriawan-Mohd Ulinnuha (Ina) 21-13, 12-21, 21-15; Kang Ji-wook-Choi Seung-il (Kor) bt Goh Jian Hao-Pang Zheng Lin (Mas) 21-19, 21-12; Nipitphon Phuangphuapet-Tin C. Caballes (Tha) bt Yeoh Choong Yee-Chooi Kah Ming (Mas) 17-21, 21-16, 21-15; Angga Pratama-Rendy Yohanes Sugiarto (Ina) bt Pranav Chopra-Praneet B. Sai (Ind) 21-17, 21-8.
Third round (involving Malaysians): Takahashi Sayaka (Jpn) bt Sonia Cheah 21-10, 16-21, 21-9; Tai Tsu-ying (Tpe) bt Florah Ng 21-18, 21-12; Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) bt Tee Jing Yi 21-10, 21-13.
Quarter-finals: Ying Tai-tsu (Tpe) bt Takahashi Sayaka (Jpn) 21-13, 18-21, 21-18; Febby Angguni (Ina) bt Liu Yingmei (Chn) 21-10, 21-14; Chen Xiaojia (Chn) bt Siti Anida Lestari Qorytin (Ina) 21-19, 21-14; Ana Rovita (Ina) bt Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) 21-14, 21-14.
Third round (involving Malaysians): Ng Hui Ern-Lai Pei Jing bt Mitani Minatsu-Aratama Misato (Jpn) 21-18, 22-20; Fukuman Naoko-Takahashi Sayaka (Jpn) bt Florah Ng-Nurhani Abdul Aziz 21-13, 21-14.
Quarter-finals: Ng Hui Ern-Lai Pei Jing bt Nguyen Thi Sen-Vu Thi Trang (Vie) 21-11, 17-21, 21-17; Xia Huan-Tang Jinhua (Chn) bt Fukuman Naoko-Takahashi Sayaka (Jpn) 22-24, 21-10, 21-17; Rodjana Chuthabunditkul-Sapriree Taerattanachai (Tha) bt Liu Xin-Bao Yixin (Chn) 24-22, 10-21, 21-15; Luo Ying-Luo Yu (Chn) bt Poon Lok Yan-Tse Ying Suet (Hkg) 22-20, 21-10.
Third round (involving Malaysians): Pisit Poodchalat-Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) bt Ow Yao Han-Lai Pei Jing 21-12, 21-18; Tan Wee Tat-Ng Hui Ern bt Nipitphon Phuangphuapet-Artima Serithammarak (Tha) 21-18, 21-17.
Quarter-finals: Chopra Pranav-Sawant Prajakta (Ind) bt Tan Wee Tat-Ng Hui Ern (Mas) 21-17, 21-12; Lu Kai-Bao Yixin (Chn) w.o. Rendy Yohanes Sugiarto-Rosalia Tiara Nuraidah (Ina); Liu Peixuan-Xia Huan (Chn) bt Pisit Poodchalat-Ratchanok Intanon (Tha) 22-20, 21-15; Maneepong Jongjit- Rodjana Chuthabunditkul (Tha) bt Kevin Alexander-Suci Rizki Andini (Ina) 21-19, 21-14.