PETALING JAYA: National men’s singles shuttler Leong Jun Hao (pic) believes being patience is critical if he is to make a strong comeback from an injury.
The 19-year-old, who has been sidelined for more than four months after injuring his hip last October, will make his long-awaited return to competition at the Celcom Axiata National Championships, which begins in Ipoh tomorrow.
Jun Hao is seeded fourth and the path looks clear for him to go all the way to the semi-finals where he could face teammate and top seed Lee Zii Jia.
The former Asian Junior champion has played down his chances of fighting for his maiden national crown in his third appearance.
He was a quarter-finalist in 2017 and could only reach the last 16 last year.
“It will be my first tournament since the Taiwan Open last October, so I prefer to take it one match at a time,” said Jun Hao, who’s now ranked 117th in the world – 40 rungs down before he was hit by the injury.
“I’m grateful to be able to return earlier as initially I was expected to be out until March. But I try not to risk reaggravating the injury.
“Also, I have missed out so much in the last few months, there’s plenty of catching up to do.
“The standard of the world badminton is much more higher now. I’ll need to pick up skill sets and improve my game tactically to compete.
“I’m looking forward to the National Championships. I want to use the national meet as a stepping stone before I get back into the international scene,” added Jun Hao.
The other top contenders for the prestigious title and a RM10,000 winner’s cheque will be Liew Daren, Soong Joo Ven and Lim Chi Wing.
Daren and Joo Ven are still chasing for their first title while Chi Wing will be aiming to return to winning ways having previously emerged back-to-back winner in 2016 and 2017.
Promising youngsters — Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin, Ng Tze Yong, Lim Chong King and Mohd Ziyad Tahad — who are second month into their three-month probation with the national team, will be eager to impress as well.
Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin, who pipped Zii Jia in the final for his second title last year, is the notable absentee alongside 2013 champion Chong Wei Feng.