PETALING JAYA: Malaysia look set to produce a champion again after a lapse of three years if the current players live up to their billings in the KLRC World Junior Championships, beginning today in Auckland with the mixed team competition.
The last time Malaysia won a title in the series was in Vancouver in 2004 through the boys' doubles pair of Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong.
Malaysia best-ever achievement was in Melbourne in 1998. Chan Chong Ming partnered Teo Kok Seng to take the boys' doubles crown.
Chong Ming later teamed up with Joanne Quay to clinch the mixed doubles title.
In the seedings released yesterday for the individual events, which begins on Oct 30, Malaysia have players as top two seeds in three events – boys’ singles, boys’ doubles and the mixed doubles.
Mohd Arif Abdul Latif is the top seed ahead of China's Chen Long and the other Malaysian in the boys' singles competition, Teo Kok Siang, is seeded 13th.
Although Arif was beaten by Chen Long in the final of the Asian Junior Championships in Kuala Lumpur in July, he was given top billing in Auckland because he has more ranking points from participation in Open tournaments.
Asian Juniors gold medallists Tan Wee Kiong-Woon Khe Wei and Lim Khim Wah-Ng Hui Lin are the top two seeds for the mixed doubles.
The boys' pair of Khim Wah-Mak Hee Chun are the second seeds behind China's Li Tian-Chai Biao, whom they lost to in the final of the Asian Juniors.
Lydia Cheah, who was runner-up to China's Wang Yihan in the Asian Juniors, will find it tough to make headway in the girls' singles competition as she is only seeded 11th.
Yihan is not eligible to play in Auckland but China have Liu Xin and Wang Lin as their representatives. Wang Lin is seeded third behind Liu Xin and the top seeded Singaporean Xing Aiying but she is seen as the hot favourite for the title.
The 18-year-old Wang Lin is a member of the Chinese national team and is now ranked 33rd in the world and has been given opportunities to compete in Super Series tournaments.
Coach Jeremy Gan, who won the world junior boys' doubles title with Chong Ming in 1996, said that Malaysia's chances not only lie in the individual event but also in the mixed team event.
“If our players do not succumb to the pressure, we have a shot at winning the boys' doubles and mixed doubles titles,” he said in a telephone interview from Auckland yesterday.
“The boys' singles is more of an open affair while China are the favourites for the team event. But it's hard to say under the 21-point format and we have a chance if our players rise to the occasion.”