PETALING JAYA: Malaysia will not have the service of top boys' singles shuttler Mohd Arif Abdul Latif in the mixed team event of the KLRC-BWF World Junior Championships in Auckland.
Yesterday, the 18-year-old Arif failed to give Malaysia a flying start in the quarter-finals against Thailand. Arif, the Asian junior runner-up, was shocked 8-21, 19-21 by Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk.
To add to Arif's misery, he picked up a groin injury, ruling him out from the team competition.
Despite the early setback yesterday, Malaysia went on to beat Thailand 3-1. Lydia Cheah (girls' singles), Lim Khim Wah-Mak Hee Chun (boys' doubles) and Asian junior mixed doubles champions Tan Wee Kiong-Woon Khe Wei won their matches.
Today, Malaysia will take on the fancied China in the semi-finals.
In July, Malaysia upset China en route to the Asian junior title. This time, however, the Malaysians will be hard pressed to reach the final without Arif.
Vountus Indra Mawan will replace Arif but the former is unlikely to get the better of Asian junior champion Chen Long.
We are resting Arif to give him time to recover for the boys' singles event, said Sun Chenhua, the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) chief coach, in a telephone interview from Auckland. He feels pain even when he walks. We decided that it is best for him to skip the semi-finals. We dont want to take any risk.
Doubles coach Jeremy Gan said that Malaysia would bank on the doubles players for points against China.
Lydia too will have a tough time against Wang Lin. The Chinese girl is already doing well in senior tournaments. We believe we have a chance to challenge for points in all the three doubles matches, added Jeremy.
The other semi-final will be between Singapore and defending champions South Korea.
Singapore, who finished sixth at the previous championships, pulled off a stunning 3-2 win over Indonesia.