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Saturday November 3, 2012

Badminton: Mei Kuan-Meng Yean fail to salvage bad run in Chiba

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s challenge in the World Junior Championships came a cropper in Chiba, Japan, yesterday but top girls’ doubles pair Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean gave some hope for the future.

Mei Kuan-Meng Yean survived a hard-fought duel with Indonesia’s Melati Daeva Oktaviani-Rosyita Eka Putri Sari with a 21-18, 14-21, 21-12 win in the quarter-finals – the only Malaysians to get past the last eight stage.

Clearly exhausted, the third-fourth seeds then went down tamely 6-21, 12-21 to defending champions Lee So-hee-Shin Seung-chan of South Korea in the semi-finals.

Chong Yee Han and Soo Teck Zhi failed to clear the boys’ singles quarter-finals in contrasting styles.

The 18-year-old Hee Yan got off to a splendid start against Heo Kwang-yee of South Korea but ran out of gas, losing 21-23, 11-21. Teck Shi was no match for the reigning Asian junior champion Kento Momota of Japan, crashing out 12-21, 11-21 in just 28 minutes.

It is the first time since 2007 that Malaysia will not have a winner in the series after producing champions in the last five years.

The previous winners were Lim Khim Wah-Ng Hui Lin (2007, mixed doubles), Mak Hee Chun-Teo Kok Siang (2008, boys’ doubles), Chooi Kah Ming-Ow Yao Han (2009, boys’ doubles), Yao Han-Yew Hong Kheng (2010, boys’ doubles), Nelson Heg Wei Keat-Teo Ee Yi (2011, boys’ doubles) and Zulfadli Zulkifli (2011, boys’ singles).

National junior programme manager Hau Kim Tho said Mei Kuan-Meng Yean did well to end their junior careers with a semi-final finish.

“It’s unfortunate that Malaysia’s run of producing winners in the meet has ended but Mei Kuan-Meng Yean did well to keep the flag flying until the semi-finals. The Koreans are the defending champions and I’m surprised that they were seeded second. It’s unfortunate that our girls had to meet them in the semis,” said Kim Tho.

“Mei Kuan-Meng Yean can now focus fully on making it in the senior ranks. They have emerged at the right time as we are looking for new faces in the elite women’s doubles.”

Kim Tho said the 17-year-old Teck Zhi would rush back home with Soong Joo Ven, Darren Isaac Devadass and Ong Yew Sin for the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) examinations starting on Monday.

“We had hoped that they would go far but Teck Zhi and Yee Han lost to experienced players. Teck Zhi will have another shot next year and he will be better prepared as he will be in full-time training after his SPM,” said Kim Tho.

There were several major upsets in the tournament yesterday with top seeds Viktor Axelsen of Denmark and Tai Tzu-ying of Taiwan, who have already broken ground at senior level, shown the exit in the boys’ and girls’ quarter-finals respectively.

Axelsen, the 2010 world junior champion, caved in to pressure once again when he lost 19-21. 21-13, 17-21 to Song Xue, another rising star from China. The Dane had lost to Zulfadli in the final last year. It was also a sad end for the 17-year-old Tzu-ying, who won the Super Series title in Japan just two months ago, as she went down 21-18, 13-21, 11-21 to China’s Yu Sun. Yu Sun’s joy was, however, shortlived as she was beaten 10-21, 20-22 by Japan’s Nozomi Okuhara.

Japan will have a girls’ singles champion for the first time in the world juniors as Nozomi takes on compatriot Akane Yamaguchi in the final today.

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