Tze Yong experiences sweetest transformation ever

Don’t despair: Ng Tze Yong is hugged by India’s Lakshya Sen after losing the men’s singles final. — AFP

DEBUTANT Ng Tze Yong was branded as a no-hoper in the Commonwealth Games but the shuttler will return home with his head held high after winning the men’s singles silver medal.

Tze Yong was a transformed player following his win against K. Srikanth during the mixed team final that was pivotal in Malaysia’s 3-0 victory over India, and his exploits continued with an amazing run in the men’s singles competition. Having beaten 2021 world champion Loh Kean Yew of Singapore in the quarter-finals, Tze Yong outplayed Srikanth, the losing finalist at the world championships, in the last four and almost competed a perfect script in the final against Lakshya Sen yesterday.

A victory against eventual winner would have given him the satisfaction as the Indian was a bronze medallist at the World Championships.

Tried as he might, Lakshya stuck like a thorn in the flesh and came back strongly after losing the first game against the spirited Tze Yong to win 19-21, 21-9, 21-16 in the final.

Victory would have put Tze Yong alongside former stars Tan Aik Huang (1966), (the late) Datuk Punch Gunalan (1974), Rashid Sidek (1990, 1994), Wong Choong Hann (1998), Hafiz Hashim (2002) and Lee Chong Wei (2006, 2010, 2018) as Malaysia’s men’s singles winners at the Commonwealth Games.

Lakshya, who received an early birthday gift as he turns 21 on Aug 16, is only the fourth Indian after Prakash Padukone (1978), Syed Modi (1982) and P. Kashyap (2014) to win the men’s singles crown.

Tze Yong, 22, will be gutted after coming so close but the Malaysian took the defeat on his chin.

“This is my first multi-sport event and I am proud of what I’ve achieved here. I hope this will continue,” said Tze Yong.

“In the first game, I didn’t want to think too much, tried to win points and attack more. He played better in the second game and took a big lead. I had no pressure and I just kept trying. I thank the Malaysian fans who supported me a lot.”

Tze Yong also said that he was still a long shot from challenging Lee Zii Jia and would focus on using the positives in Birmingham to become a better player.

“Zii Jia is still the number one player. I’m still far from becoming an established player and I will keep working hard,” said Tze Yong.

He added that he would be grounded despite surpassing his own expectations in Birmingham.

“My performance here gives me the confidence to progress further.”

Tze Yong’s next major assignment will be the World Championships in Tokyo where he received a late invitation to play in Tokyo from Aug 21-28.

The fact that he has beaten last year’s finalists in Birmingham will be a motivating factor as Tze Yong approaches the World Championships as a transformed man.

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