SEREMBAN: It was not the way he wanted to win but yesterday, Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin finally nailed his first title in the 100Plus National Junior Circuit Grand Finals at the NSCRC Hall here.
The 18-year-old came back from a 16-21 defeat in the first game to force compatriot Mohd Syawal Ismail to a rubber game with a 21-11 win. But the deciding game was not played because Syawal felt dizzy and conceded a walkover.
It was Iskandar’s first title in his last national Grand Finals after agonising misses in the Under-12, Under-14 and Under-16 categories.
“It was unfortunate that Syawal had to retire. I would have preferred for the match to be completed,” said Iskandar.
“But I have nothing to complain about. I have finally won my first title on the circuit. I was in the finals of all the other lower age-group categories but I never got it right.”
The win for Iskandar is the right tonic ahead of the Asian junior championships, which will be held at Juara Stadium in Bukit Kiara from July 12-19. He is also gearing up for the world junior championships, which will be held in Alor Setar in October. “I am determined to end my junior career on a high note this year. The Asian junior tournament is my next major event and I am shaping up well for it,” he said.
“My fitness level has improved but I must be more aggressive in my game.
“I lost in the first game because I allowed Syawal to dictate the pace.”
Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) chief coach Sun Chenhua said that the consistent Iskandar was as good as assured of his place in the Asian Juniors.
The selection of the other players will be finalised at a meeting with the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) on June 18.
“Iskandar has improved as far as his physical condition is concerned. But he is playing a more defensive game right now and this style will not work under this rally-scoring format,” said Chenhua.
“He has to switch back to a more attacking play.
“If he is in good form, we have a shot at winning honours in the singles event.”
The others hoping to make the squad for the Asian Juniors are Zulfadli Zulkifli, Misbun Ramdan Misbun, Lim Yu Sheng, Loh Wei Sheng, Jonathan Lee, Wing Kin Yik and Tew Gee Chong.
Yesterday, Zulfadli staked yet another strong claim for a place when he lifted the boys’ Under-16 title.
“I have been consistent so far. In fact, I beat all the other contenders during recent test matches in Bukit Jalil. Only Iskandar did not participate in the tests to determine the ranking of players,” he said.
“I am looking forward to playing in the Asian Juniors for the first time.” Meanwhile, Soong Joo Ven and Sonia Cheah continued to show their potential to become the country’s stars when they emerged as the boys’ Under-14 and girls’ Under-16 champions respectively yesterday.