PETALING JAYA: Shuttler Yang Li Lian is poised to be the new darling of the national women’s singles department, going by her gutsy performance at the ongoing Uber Cup Asian Zone qualifying tournament in Macau.
At a time when Malaysia needed more spirited players like their former international Wong Mew Choo to add depth to the women’s team, the 19-year-old Li Lian showed she can measure up to the tag.
On Tuesday, Li Lian, playing in her first major team event as the third singles, staged a spectacular come-from-behind win over India’s Sayali Gokhale to clinch the winning point in Malaysia’s 3-2 triumph over India in a Group A tie.
Li Lian was not intimidated and did not panic despite trailing 2-11 in the decider. Instead, she showed steely determination to take Malaysia into the quarter-finals.
Today, Malaysia will play Thailand in a bid to seal a ticket to the Finals, which will be held in Wuhan, China, from May 20-27. And if Li Lian is fielded, she has vowed to keep the momentum going.
Li Lian, who graduated from the Bukit Jalil Sports School (BJSS) to the national team last year, said that the encouragement from her team-mates made all the difference in her breakthrough performance.
“I could hear all their voices cheering and urging me on. They told me not to give up when I was trailing 2-11. And I did not want to let my team-mates down,” said Li Lian.
Li Lian is a reserve in the team behind three seniors – Tee Jing Ji, Lydia Cheah and Sannatasah Saniru. She only made the team because her good friend Sonia Cheah dropped out because of injury.
Jing Yi and Lydia played in the tie against India but both lost their matches. The two winning points came from Chin Eei Hui-Wong Pei Tty and the scratch partnership of Goh Liu Ying-Vivian Hoo.
“This is a lucky break for me. I was among the spectators when Malaysia played in the Uber Cup Finals two years ago. I was very happy when I made the team as a late replacement. Now, I am overjoyed to win a point for Malaysia. It all seems surreal to me,” she said.
“If I am selected to play in the quarter-finals, I will fight all the way. If I am not selected, I will stand by the team and support them all the way. The players are all motivated now.”
Li Lian had done well at junior level, showing promise by winning the Under-16 and Under-18 titles in the 100Plus National Junior Circuit over the last three years.
With more exposure at senior level, the lass, who hails from Selangor, is certain to make her way to the top.
Team manager Datuk Sayed Abu Bakar Abdullah was pleased with the commitment shown by the women’s team.
He is now banking on the players to show the same fire in today’s quarter-final match.
“These girls are a special lot. They are disciplined and obedient. Each one of them gave their all in the tie against India, especially Li Lian.
“We will be banking on the same team spirit against our opponents tomorrow,” said Sayed.