Tze Yong ends year on a high despite barren run


PETALING JAYA: Without a doubt, 2023 has been men’s singles shuttler Ng Tze Yong best year although he did not win any title.

The 23-year-old has moved up into the top 15 ranking in the world for the first time; beaten several top players, including world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen of Denmark once; and most importantly has been playing with confidence.

Singles coach Hendrawan is satisfied over Tze Yong’s overall campaign this year and is ready to further raise his profile for the next season.

“Tze Yong has shown improvement this year where he has reached quarter-finals, semi-finals and a final in his tournaments,” said Hendrawan, who has been guiding Tze Yong for the past two years.

“The next target for him is to win a title. And he is still on track to qualify for next year’s Paris Olympic Games.”

Tze Yong, who moved from No. 28 at the start of the year to his current 14th in the world, has reached the quarter-finals seven times this year including in his debut Asian Games in Hangzhou last month.

Hendrawan said Tze Yong’s peak performance was at the Arctic Open, where he finished as the runner-up to Lee Zii Jia last month.

“I would say Tze Yong’s best tournament was in Finland,” he said.

Hendrawan also chooses Tze Yong’s debut at the All-England as one of the highlights.

“It’s the most memorable tournament for Tze Yong as he defeated the best player in the world before losing in the quarter-finals,” he said.

It was in this tournament that Tze Yong showed his ability by upstaging Axelsen in the second round, which probably gave him the self-belief that he had been searching for.

If there is one tournament that Hendrawan wished to turn back the time, it would be the Australian Open.

“He has the best chance here but he missed it.”

Tze Yong went down fighting 21-17, 24-26, 19-21 to Zii Jia in the quarter-finals.

There were a few disappointments too as Tze Yong had to deal with injuries and growing expectations but Hendrawan said he found it hard to deal with empty talks.

“One of my disappointments this year has to do with people who don’t know the real situations but they give criticism as though they know everything,” he said.

Thanks to stronger performance in the second half of the year, Tze Yong could have made the cut for the prestigious season ending World Tour Finals in Hangzhou from Dec 13-17 after finishing in eighth spot in the Race to Finals ranking.

The top eight players will usually qualify but Thailand’s Kunlavut Vitidsarn, who finished ninth, won a spot instead after emerging as the world champion in August.

Tze Yong needs to maintain his top 16 position in the world until the end of the Olympic qualifying period in April next year to make the cut and will be out to get a good start to the new year when he gets into action at the Malaysian Open from Jan 9-14 in Bukit Jalil.

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