KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia’s campaign in the mixed team competition of the Asian junior badminton championships got off to a shaky start with the top boys’ shuttlers showing signs of nerves in the Group B tie against Vietnam at the Juara Stadium in Bukit Kiara here yesterday.
Malaysia defeated Vietnam 4-1 but the highly-rated Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin and the boys’ pair of Ow Yao Han-Yew Hong Kheng had to go the distance.
In an earlier tie, Malaysia trounced Mongolia with a 5-0 win. In their final group tie today, Malaysia will take on India, who also had to ward off strong challenges from the Vietnamese before prevailing with a 5-0 win.
Against Vietnam yesterday, Malaysia started on a sluggish note when Dutch and German Open junior champion Iskandar had to battle hard to beat Le Ha Anh 18-21, 21-9, 21-16 in a match that lasted 43 minutes.
Malaysia’s confidence was shaken in the second match when the mixed doubles shuttlers of Goh Jian Hao-Shevon Lai Jemie crashed to a 22-20, 17-21, 8-21 defeat by Bui Quang Tuan-Vu Thi Trang.
The national schools (MSSM) champion Tee Jing Yee, however, took only 20 minutes to put things back in order when she defeated Nguyen Thi Sen 21-8, 21-10.
“I was quite nervous because Iskandar went into rubber games and we had lost the mixed doubles match. However, I surprised myself by playing well and managed to put the team back in the lead,” said Jing Yee.
Commonwealth Youth Games champions Yao Han-Hong Kheng lived dangerously for a 21-15, 15-21, 21-12 win over Le Ha Anh-Tran Duc Phong in a 50-minute match.
The 17-year-old Hong Kheng said: “We could have won it more convincingly but we got it wrong with our strategy in the second game.
“Fortunately, we were managed to win it. We should be more stable with our game after this.”
With Malaysia having taken an unassailable lead, the girls’ pair of Ng Hui Ern-Lai Pei Jing went in without much pressure but still they faced strong resistance from Nguyen Thi Sen-Vu Thi Trang before winning the match 21-18, 20-22, 21-16.
Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) doubles chief coach Yap Kim Hock admitted that players from Vietnam had improved by leaps and bounds.
“The Vietnamese did well to push our players to the limit. There was some pressure on our team after the mixed pair lost,” he said. “But it was just a minor setback. The players will be in better condition tomorrow. I am confident that we will make it to the quarter-finals.”
The group ties will be completed in the morning session of play today, beginning at 9am. The quarter-finals will be played from 4pm.