KANGAR: The national schools (MSSM) badminton championships’ red-hot favourite Zulfadli Zulkifli survived a scare yesterday before booking his place in the final of the boys’ Under-18 singles competition.
The 16-year-old Selangor shuttler, the second seed in the championships held at the Wawasan Hall here, was stretched to three games before prevailing 21-23, 21-10, 21-18 against Kuala Lumpur’s Tew Gee Chong.
Zulfadli, who is chasing his first Under-18 title to add to his previous MSSM singles triumphs in the Under-12 and Under-15 categories, blamed the lighting conditions at the court for his sluggish display.
“It was the first time all week that I was required to play on Court A and I was unprepared for the lighting conditions there. When I was playing on the left side, the ceiling lights were blurring my vision every time I looked up,” he said.
“My opponent was also on song and made life difficult for me. I need to improve on my performance and handle the court conditions better in the final tomorrow.”
Zulfadli will be up against Negri Sembilan’s Low Wei Sheng, the top seed, in the final today. Wei Sheng, who had expected a tough fight from Selangor’s Mohd Azryn Ayub in the semis, won comfortably at 21-13, 21-16.
The last time the two players met in an MSSM final two years ago, Zulfadli bagged the Under-15 singles title in straight games.
Revenge will be on the mind of KL’s Sonia Cheah when she goes up against Selangor’s Yang Li Lian in today’s girls’ Under-18 singles final.
The second seeded Sonia, who easily downed Perak’s Ng Su Tien 21-4, 21-13 in the semi-final yesterday, lost to Li Lian in the Under-15 singles final last year.
Li Lian booked her place in today’s final with an equally effective 21-14, 21-12 win over KL’s Nur Hani Aziz.
Nur Hani, who had upset top seed Ng Sin Er of Kedah in the quarter-finals on Wednesday, failed to lift her game for the second day running, and fell tamely to the lanky Selangor lass.
Sonia and Li Lian will also feature in the girls’ Under-18 doubles final. In the semi-finals, Sonia-Shevon Lai defeated Lai Pei Jing-Lee Ee Hui of Pahang 21-10, 22-20 while Li Lian-Tan Pey Syean edged Ng Su Tien-Chan Wan Ran of Perak 21-7, 18-21, 22-20.
Besides Sonia and Li Lian, the only other shuttler with a chance of bagging two titles in Kangar is Negri Sembilan’s S. Kisona.
The pint-sized Kisona is proving to be the surprise package of the meet after powering her way to both the girls’ Under-12 singles and doubles finals.
The 11-year-old SJKC Ma Hwa student stunned Sabah’s Voo Wei Xin 21-16, 21-18 in the semi-finals to set up a final date with another giant-killer, S. Birentha of Selangor. Birentha upset top seed Lee Ying Ying of Perak 21-18, 21-17 in the other semi-final.
Kisona then partnered Kelly Siow to register a 21-18, 21-17 victory over Kedah’s Koh Ching Woon-Kelly Tan to reach the doubles final against Selangor’s Eng Pui Yee-M. Thinaah.
“I have been playing badminton with my parents and three older siblings since I was four-years-old,” said Kisona who first lifted the Negri Sembilan state schools Under-12 title at the age of 10 last year.
“After only getting to the singles quarter-finals during my MSSM debut last year, I am happy to make it to two finals this time.
“I am looking forward to doing my best in both the finals.”