KUALA LUMPUR: Not even the “King” – that’s Lim Chong King – could stop a hardy Leong Jun Hao from marching into the men’s singles final of the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) Invitational Championships.
The 21-year-old Jun Hao, a former Asian junior champion, had to overcome pain from a right hip problem to prevail 21-13,21-16 in 37 minutes to finish as the Division One round-robin stage champion at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) yesterday.
Jun Hao had scored three points from four matches including wins over Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin on Thursday and Ng Tze Yong on Friday.
His opening win over Liew Daren was not counted as the match was declared null and void following the latter’s withdrawal due to injury.
Jun Hao will take on Tze Yong for the title today.
Tze Yong, 20, qualified after beating Aidil Sholeh 21-19,21-18 to secure his spot as the runner-up.
Cheam June Wei, who completed his fixtures on Friday, had to settle for third despite having three points.
He was pipped by Tze Yong, who had a better game difference.
All eyes will be on weary Jun Hao as he makes his 12th start in two weeks. He had already played five matches en route to winning the Division Two title last week.
“I have beaten Tze Yong during the group stage and I certainly hope to get the same result against him and win the title, ” said Jun Hao.
“But it really depends on my recovery. My right hip is really painful. I felt the pain in previous matches but it wasn’t that bad. Hopefully I’ll get better by tomorrow.”
Jun Hao admitted that the withdrawal of several top players including Lee Zii Jia and Soong Joo Ven has opened the opportunity for him. Initially, he had only targeted a top-four finish.
“It was unfortunate that Zii Jia, Soong and Daren had to pull out, ” he said.
“I knew I had a chance in their absence, so I tried very hard to win every match I played to give myself a shot at the top-two finish.”As for Tze Yong, he’s out to win his “biggest” title yet in his career.
Tze Yong believes winning this week’s internal tournament would mean a lot more than the South Australia International victory he earned in September last year.
“Compared to some of the satellite tournaments I played last year, this week’s tournament is undoubtedly more challenging than any of them, ” said Tze Yong.
“I think I have played really well to make it this far. Yesterday’s win over June Wei was the best display this week.
“Jun Hao will be tough to beat, but as long as I don’t put too much pressure on myself, it should be okay. Sometimes, I couldn’t play my best because I was too tense and eager to win.”
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