Sure starter or not, Jun Hao aims to keep perfect record

PETALING JAYA: Former Asian junior champion Leong Jun Hao (pic) knows he is not assured of a start in the Thomas Cup Finals in Aarhus.

But if he does, the 22-year-old will be determined to keep his unbeaten record in senior team competitions intact.

Jun Hao had thus far contributed a point in all his three starts for Malaysia, with his notable performance being in the Asia Team Championships in Manila last year.

Jun Hao did well in his third singles role, picking up two wins including beating India’s former Asian Championships bronze medallist H. S. Prannoy, during the group stage.

The team went on to finish runners-up to Indonesia in the event that served as the qualifiers for the Aarhus Finals.

“I absolutely love team events. It always brings out the best in me. I’ve played in the team competition regularly during my time in the junior team,” said Jun Hao, who’s in the side that won the mixed team silver in the World Junior Championships in Bilbao 2016 and Yogyakarta 2017.

“It was those invaluable experiences that helped me to face the same situation when I moved up to the senior ranks. I’m very motivated and ready to be picked for any match this week. Even against top sides like Japan, I won’t feel overwhelmed.”

Jun Hao is one of only four members in the 12-man squad besides captain Lee Zii Jia and men’s doubles aces Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik who had featured in the Bangkok Finals three years ago.

Then, an 18-year-old Jun Hao was a surprise call-up to make up a four-man singles line-up that comprised Lee Chong Wei, Zii Jia and Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin.

He earned his selection with his runner-up finish at the Thailand Masters and victory at the Finnish Open for his maiden senior title.

In Bangkok, Jun Hao won his only match against Algeria’s Adel Hamek during the group stage. Malaysia were ousted 1-3 by Indonesia in the quarter-finals.

With Zii Jia looking set to be the only automatic starter among the five singles members in the squad, Jun Hao will have to slug it out with Ng Tze Yong, Cheam June Wei and Aidil Sholeh Ali Sadikin for the second and third singles spots in today’s Group D opener against Canada.

Jun Hao is the second most senior member in the team behind 23-year-old Zii Jia, but based on the world rankings, he’s only the fourth highest at No. 121. June Wei, Tze Yong and Aidil are No. 70, No. 80 and No. 122 respectively.

Jun Hao also intends to use his second Thomas Cup appearance to revive his career after his decent progress was hampered by a hip injury in late 2018 and the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I certainly hope that I can play a prominent role this week. A prestigious event like the Thomas Cup is one of those tournaments that can bring a massive impact and confidence boost to a player,” said Jun Hao.

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