KUALA LUMPUR: Boosted by his selection into the SEA Games squad, back-up shuttler Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin stormed into the men’s singles quarter-finals of the Korean Open Grand Prix Gold in convincing fashion.
On Thursday, Iskandar stayed focused throughout the game to beat Ha Young-woong of South Korea 21-17, 21-16 in 40 minutes in the third round to set up a meeting with 11th seed Tian Houwei of China.
National coach Hendrawan hopes that Iskandar would be able to pass the real test on Friday against Houwei.
“Iskandar played well today (Thursday) and was in control of the game from the start. The next match will reflect his true ability. He will be up against Houwei, who is from his batch,” said Hendrawan.
“Currently, Houwei is one step ahead of Iskandar. He has already won the London and Australian Grand Prix Gold titles while Iskandar’s best result is a semi-final finish at the Malaysian Open GP Gold. I do hope that he will step up to the plate.”
Iskandar was beaten by compatriot Goh Soon Huat in the semi-finals of the GP Gold at the Stadium Juara in July.
Hendrawan said that he could see more determination in Iskandar since being named as a replacement for Liew Daren for the Myanmar SEA Games. Daren has been given time off to recover from his foot injury.
The other men’s singles player in the SEA Games squad is Chong Wei Feng.
“Iskandar is thrilled to bits to make the selection. I do not want him to think that we selected him because we had no choice. I have encouraged him to prove to us that he deserved to be sent for the Games. He is motivated,” added Hendrawan.
Iskandar is the lone representative in the ongoing Korean tournament following the meek defeat of doubles pair Mohd Razif Abdul Latif-Mohd Hafiz Hashim on Thursday. The duo went down 13-21, 10-21 to South Korea’s Ko Sung-hyun-Shin Baek-cheol in the third round.