National champ Joo Ven stakes Thomas Cup claim

No pressure: Joo Ven is one of two independent men’s singles shuttlers invited for BAM’s internal tournament next month.

PETALING JAYA: Reigning national champion Soong Joo Ven insists he’s not feeling the heat ahead of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM)’s internal tournament scheduled in mid-August.

Although he admitted that the mini competition would play a big part in the Thomas Cup squad selection, the 25-year-old said he would head into his first competitive action since January without any pressure.

Joo Ven is one of two independent men’s singles shuttlers – the other is Liew Daren – invited for the meet meant to help the players regain match fitness and competitiveness following a hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I’ll just treat it as another simulation matchplay. It’s the same as what I used to experience when I was in the national team,” said Joo Ven.

“The difference is that it will be shown live on TV. Still, I don’t feel any pressure.

“In fact, the BAM players are the ones who will need to deal with the pressure,” added the 2012 Asian Junior Championships silver medallist.

Joo Ven said he was very much looking forward to the tournament to gauge the progress he has made since resuming training in the middle of last month.

He could only manage two appearances in January and his best outing was reaching the last 16 of the Thailand Masters.

“It’s going to be an intensely-contested tournament because everyone is eager to impress,” said Joo Ven.

“With the Thomas Cup selection looming, everyone will be out to stake a claim.”

At world No. 67, Joo Ven is the third highest-ranked men’s singles shuttler in the country after Lee Zii Jia (No. 10) and Liew Daren (No. 41). But the national ranking may not be the main selection criterion as the BAM would prefer to field their own players as well as give some youngsters a chance.”

Daren and Joo Ven were not part of the Malaysian side that finished runners-up in the Asia Team Championships, which doubled up as the Thomas Cup qualifiers, in Manila in February.

In the duo’s absence, fourth-ranked Cheam June Wei (No. 74) took centrestage by defeating the likes of Indonesia’s Jonatan Christie, South Korea’s Son Wan-ho and Japan’s Kenta Nishimoto.

June Wei’s excellent display might have just secured him a start in the Aarhus Finals from Oct 3-11 alongside Zii Jia, leaving the rest slugging it out for the two remaining berths.

The others vying for a place are Leong Jun Hao, Ng Tze Yong, Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin and Lim Chong King.

Five probationers – Lee Shung Yang, Wyman Goh, Shaqeem Eiman Shahyar, Low Eu Cong and Ter Chun Long – are also expected to be part of the internal tournament.

The BAM could also look beyond the senior team if they want to round it up as a 16-player competition.

It will be interesting to give Jacky Kok Jing Hong, Justin Hoh and Mohd Fazriq Razif, the cream of the crop of the national junior team, a chance to see where they stand against their seniors.

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