PETALING JAYA: When the going gets tough, the tough get going.
Shuttler Jacky Kok Jing Hong is ready to upset the formbooks when the Asian Junior Championships’ individual events kick off in Suzhou, China, today.
The odds are heavily stacked against the 17-year-old in his bid to reach the singles semi-finals as two-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand and Indonesia’s Bobby Setiabudi are some of the top names in his path.
As if the draw wasn’t difficult enough, the world No. 23 has also been handed an opening hurdle against China’s world No. 27 Ye Haokun today.
However, Jacky is taking the challenge in his stride.
“I have no doubt I can overcome anyone if I perform to my true ability. I have beaten some of the higher-ranked opponents this year and I want to keep the momentum going,” said Jacky.
He has beaten all the top Indonesian rivals – Christian Adinata, Syabda Perkasa Belawa and Bobby, the world No. 5, No. 6 and No. 17 respectively – in the last one year.
“The first two rounds are the most crucial as I’ll most probably face Bobby in the second round if I beat Haokun.
“If I get past these two hurdles, it would double my confidence and stand me in good stead for the later stages, especially a possible meeting with Kunlavut in the quarter-finals.”
The other Malaysians in the singles competition are Lee Shun Yang and Mohd Fazriq Razif.
Malaysia have produced three winners previously – Zulfadli Zulkiffli (2011), Soo Teck Zhi (2013) and Leong Jun Hao (2017).
Doubles specialist Yap Roy King is the other player determined to come good after the mixed team event disappointment which saw Malaysia being eliminated in the group stage last Sunday.
Roy King is partnering Ooi Jhy Dar in the doubles and Gan Jing Err in the mixed doubles and he is targeting a medal.
“We have to put the team failure behind us and move on,” said Roy King. “Although we’re not the favourites, it doesn’t mean we cannot dream big.
“We have the top seeds (China’s Wang Chang-Di Zijian in the doubles and Indonesia’s Leo Rolly Carnando-Indah Cahya Sari Jamil in the mixed doubles) standing in our way in both events but I’m unfazed.
“In order to be on the podium, you have to beat the best.”
Malaysia have won the doubles titles five times since the tournament’s inception in 1997 through Chan Chong Ming-Jeremy Gan (1997), Chong Ming-Teo Kok Siang (1998), Koo Kien Keat-Ong Soon Hock (2002) and Mak Hee Chun-Teok Kok Siang (2008).
Tan Wee Kiong-Woon Khe Wei were the nation’s only mixed doubles champions in 2007.
In Jakarta last year, Pearly Tan Koong Le-Toh Ee Wei delivered Malaysia’s sole podium finish by finishing second in the women’s doubles.
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