JUNIOR shuttler Karyn Velez of the United States lived up to her top billing and got her campaign off on a good note at the KLRC-New Vision Badminton Academy (NVBA) Junior Badminton Championships in Petaling Jaya on Sunday.
Initially, the 19-year-old KLRC Bhd backed player was cautious of the threat from the local hopefuls in ruining her aim of bagging the title in the girls’ Under-21 singles.
Last year, Velez finished as the women’s singles runner-up at the Miami International Open before chalking up a victory in the Mexico International Open.
“After having competed in several international tournaments, I felt the pressure in maintaining my status as the frontrunner in the tournament.
“I knew that the unknown contenders were out to give me a good run and I was afraid of going down to them. I am glad that I focused on my game plan and pulled through with confidence,” she said.
Velez ended the gallant run of emerging talent Ho Yen Mei of Kuala Lumpur with a convincing 21-14, 21-11 victory in the final.
Velez said she did not allow Ho’s surprise victory over her KLRC team mate Leanne Choo of Australia to affect her morale.
“I was satisfied with my performance in the match against her.
“I produced a better quality match compared with previous encounters throughout the tournament. Everything went according to plan when I got into the rhythm,” Velez added.
In the semi-finals, the petite 13-year-old Ho came from a game down before prevailing over Australian number two ranked women’s shuttler Choo.
Kuala Lumpur coach M. Sutheswari praised Ho for giving a courageous display before upstaging the 18-year-old Choo 12-21, 21-10, 21-15.
“She (Ho) came alive in the second game and troubled her opponent with the long rallies. In the end, she was the fitter player to earn a place and gauge her strength against a more experienced player in the final,” the former international Sutheswari added.
However, Velez failed in her bid to score a double by pairing up with Choo in the girls’ Under-21 doubles.
The duo went down 25-27, 16-21 to the Australian combination of Anne-Louise Suee—Leisha Cooper in the final.
“It would have been nice to bag the double. But, we were not disappointed with the outcome. It was tough coping with the hectic competition schedule featuring in both the singles and doubles.
“For the first quarter of the year, I will focus on my preparation before returning to compete at international tournaments in April,” said Velez, who had the privilege to train for eight months in Kuala Lumpur last year.
Meanwhile, it was double joy for the boys’ singles champions in all the three age groups.
The trio were Shahzan Shah Mishaful Muneer (boys’ Under-13), Lee Jian Yi (boys’ Under-15) and Nur Mohd Azyrin Ayub (boys’ Under-21).
Both Lee and Nur Mohd Azyrin had an easier stint on the court with their opponents retiring after suffering injuries in the second game.
The semi-finalists of the Under-13 and Under-15 categories received badminton equipment while the top four winners in the Under-21 age-group shared a total of RM4,100 cash rewards.
Fleet and Pro Smash were the two other partners in the two-day meet.
RESULTS (all finals)
Under-13 singles: Shahzan Shah Mishaful Muneer bt Woon Man Hung 21-14, 21-9
Under-13 doubles: Shahzan Shah Mishaful Muneer-Mohd Iqram Azman bt Chua Kek Yuan-Woon Man Hung 21-19, 21-19
Under-15 singles: Lee Jian Yi bt V. Jeevan 16-21, 12-8 (rtd)
Under-15 doubles: Woon Man Chun-Lee Jian Yi bt Yap Yong Zhou-Lee Wei Pin 21-9, 21-14
Under-21 singles: Nur Mohd Azyrin Ayub bt Zulfadli Zulkifli 21-13, 11-4 (rtd)
Under-21 doubles: Zairul Hafiz-Nur Mohd Azyrin Ayub bt Hafizi Hashim-Hafifi Hashim 21-16, 21-15
Under-13 singles: M. Thinaah bt Lee Shu En 16-21, 21-9, 21-15
Under-15 singles: Ho Yen Mei bt Goh Yea Ching 21-16, 21-14
Under-21 singles: Karyn Velez bt Ho Yen Mei 21-14, 21-11
Under-21 doubles: Anne Louise Suee-Leisha Cooper bt Leanne Choo-Karyn Velez 27-25, 21-16