Hao to step up

PETALING JAYA: Singles shuttler Leong Jun Hao (pic) has been under the radar for far too long.

And it’s time for him to step up to the plate, says singles icon Datuk Lee Chong Wei.

From an Asian junior champion in 2017 to being the country’s top three singles player right now, the 24-year-old Jun Hao has come far, having to battle various injuries over the last seven years in different stage of his life.

But at the recent Asia Team Championship, Jun Hao showed character, charisma and a promising future although he did not win the important matches against Japan in the semi-finals as the second singles and first against China.

His fighting spirit though won the hearts of the fans.

Chong Wei hopes to see world No. 38 Jun Hao make bigger impact in individual tournaments after having made his mark in the team event. Jun Hao was also in the team that won the Asia team title last year and runners-up in 2020.

“He was in the junior squad when I was in the national team, and it’s nice to see him playing with more confidence right now,” said Chong Wei.

“I was in my mid 20s when I made a mark in badminton and I hope Jun Hao will start to make his presence felt in the international tournaments.”

The spotlight fell on Jun Hao after world No. 10 Lee Zii Jia was unable to give full commitment to the team event due to sinus problems while world No. 15 Ng Tze Yong also had to skip the important matches as he had not recovered from a back injury.

In order to make an impact at the Thomas Cup Finals in Chengdu, China from April 27-May 5, Malaysia need three strong singles players.

Currently, mostly are inexperienced except for a handful like Cheam June Wei (61), Soong Joo Ven (71) and Sholel Aidil Ali Sadikin (89) while the others like Justin Hoh (96), Shahyar Shaqeem (132), Ong Zhen Yi (145), Jacky Kok Jing Hong (154) and Eogene Ewe (298) are still trying to play catch up.

With limited choices, Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) will be out to choose experienced players for an important event like the Thomas Cup Finals.

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