PETALING JAYA: National men’s singles shuttler Lim Chong King is relishing a maiden battle against Japan’s rising star Kodai Naraoka at the Celcom Axiata Malaysian International Challenge in Kangar next week.
The 19-year-old Chong King could not have asked for a tougher draw than meeting the world No. 50 as his first-round opponent.
Just 18, Naraoka is still eligible to play in junior tournaments but has opted to take on the big boys since emerging as runner-up at the World Junior Championships in Markham, Canada, in November last year.
Naraoka has amassed four satellite-level titles this year, with the latest triumph being the Dubai International last month where he beat compatriot and world No. 105 Yusuke Onodera, and will surely be gunning for more in Malaysia when the tournament begins on Tuesday.
Chong King will be out to stop Naraoka, a rival he expects to face regularly in the years to come.
“I haven’t played him (Naraoka) during my junior days, but I know he’s a strong player, ” said world No. 215 Chong King.
“He’s currently the No. 1 ranked Japanese boys’ singles player. I can count myself unlucky to face him in the first round but facing stronger opponents always excites me. It brings out the best out of me.
“Win or lose, I’m still going to gain something out of the match.”
Despite the tough draw, Chong King will be seeking to make the most out of his first action in nearly two months.
Chong King has not played since reaching the final of the Sydney International in September. He was beaten by Onodera in the final then.
He’s currently in a battle with teammate Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin for the third men’s singles spot in the team event for the Philippines SEA Games.
Chong King believes he can pull off another fine outing like he did when he made it to the semi-finals of the Malaysian International Series in April.
“All I need to do is to take it one match at a time and play with little expectation, ” said Chong King.
“That’s what I did during the Malaysian International Series. As long as I play to my true ability, the result will take care of itself. There’s nothing for me to lose.”
The other national men’s singles shuttlers in the fray are Soong Joo Ven, Cheam June Wei, Leong Jun Hao, Tan Jia Wei, Ng Tze Yong and Aidil.
World No. 55 Joo Ven, the Malaysian International Series champion, will have a reputation to live up to once more. He’s the top seed for the tournament.
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