KUALA LUMPUR: Junior boys’ doubles shuttler Wan Arif Wan Junaidi dreams of emulating his idol, South Korea’s Lee Yong-dae, and based on his current form, he is on the right path.
The 18-year-old has risen to the No. 1 spot in the junior world rankings together with partner Mohd Haikal Nazri following their fine showing in back-to-back tournaments in Europe.
They captured last week’s German Junior Open title and a week earlier, they reached the final of the Dutch Junior Open.
And now Arif is all out to achieve what Yong-dae has done in the past – reach the top of the senior rankings.
“I always watch him play and admire his consistency at the front of the court.
“I also got to see him in action during the Malaysian Masters in January, ” said Arif.
(The Terengganu-born lad had watched avidly as Yong-dae and his current partner, Kim Gi-jung served a stunner by winning the title in Bukit Jalil against all odds and is determined to show the same fighting spirit and consistency with Haikal.
“The most important thing now is to maintain our performances in upcoming tournaments, ” said Arif.
“The ranking does not matter so much. It will help us avoid other seeded players in tournaments but we can’t take anything for granted anyway.
“My long-term goal is to become the world No. 1 in senior men’s doubles. I want to follow in Yong-dae’s footsteps.”
Arif will next take part in back-to-back senior international series events in New Zealand – the North Harbour International (March 19-22) and Waikato International (March 26-29).
He will also be taking part in the mixed doubles as well with Go Pei Kee.
Arif-Haikal will open their campaign in the North Harbour International men’s doubles event against New Zealand’s John Lin-Jeffrey Zheng.
Arif is not setting any specific targets in the two competitions but has vowed to give his best.
Meanwhile, Haikal is bidding to win both the Asian and World Junior Championships with Arif this year.
The Asian Juniors is in Suzhou, China from July 11-19 while the World junior individual meet is slated for Oct 5-11 in New Zealand.
“At last year’s worlds, we lost in the quarter-finals. That was our first tournament together and this year we want to make amends by winning the title, ” said a determined Haikal.
Arif-Haikal have come a long way since the chastening defeat to China’s Dai Enyi-Feng Yanzhe in Kazan, Russia and if their current form and hunger is anything to go by, they have the potential to achieve much more.
Did you find this article insightful?