Cheam June Wei reacts after beating China’s Lin Guipu 21-23, 21-14, 23-21 during the World Junior Championships mixed team event on April 9, 2014. – Chan Boon Kai / THE STAR
ALOR SETAR: Malaysia’s target for the World Junior Championships individual event which begins Sunday is simple – get to the final-16.
The best hope for a triumph lies on the young shoulders of boys’ singles shuttler Cheam June Wei, who is the only seeded Malaysian (joint fifth) in the competition.
June Wei received a first-round bye and should easily sail through the second and third rounds where he could face Japan’s Kazuki Kirita and German Daniel Seifert respectively, with Thai Kantaphon Wangcharoen lying in wait in the fourth round.
If he makes it through, the test will come in the quarter-finals against Taiwan’s Lu Chia-hung, who defeated him at the Maybank Challenge in Kuching last year. A win will see him face top seed Jonatan Christie of Indonesia or joint third seed Zhao Jun Peng of China in the final four.
Head coach Zhou Kejian said there is not a huge gap in standard between the juniors in the competition, especially in the boys’ singles department. As such, he is confident June Wei will be able to go the distance as he had proven his potential during Malaysia’s clash against China in the mixed team event.
The 17-year-old Penangite proved he has the hunger and ability when he threw everything in but the kitchen sink to beat China’s Lin Guipu 21-23, 21-14, 23-21 during the mixed team event last Wednesday.
“I think June Wei has a great chance of making the quarter-finals and after that, we hope he can take it up a notch and go all the way,” said Kejian.
“China’s boys’ singles players are not as lethal and Indonesia’s players who are very strong also lost to Taiwan shuttlers. The performances have not been consistent ... the standard is almost the same. So the match will be won on court and it will come down to how he (June Wei) plays on the day,” he added.
However, it won’t be plain sailing for Malaysia.
The impressive pair of Goh Yea Ching-Peck Yen Wei are set to face joint third seeds Kim Ga-eun-Kim Hyang-im of South Korea in the first round of the girls’ doubles, while mixed pair Sim Gou Zheng-Eng Pui Yee who received a first-round bye, will have joint third seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Puttita Supajirakul of Thailand waiting for them in the second round.
Ho Yen Mei will be looking to bounce back from her shock straight-games defeat to India’s G. Ruthvika Shivani Gadde last week with a better showing in the girls’ singles.
The 18-year-old will have a chance to redeem herself as she may very well meet Ruthvika as early as the second round. A win will then pit her against German Luise Heim, with joint third seed Chochuwong Pornpawee of Thailand a possible fourth round opponent.
“Hopefully with the team event done and dusted the players can focus more on their individual matches. I think they have more confidence playing for themselves because the team event has a lot of pressure,” said girls’ singles coach Rony Augustinus.
“That day (against Ruthvika), the real Yen Mei did not show up. That was not her game ... that was not the standard she’s capable of. I hope she can bounce back and get back her confidence to do well,” he added.