ON THE RISE: Teck Zhi upsets the form book to win title in stunning styleLEE Chong Wei can now look forward to retirement as Malaysia has found an ideal replacement in Soo Teck Zhi.
Teck Zhi was not among the favourites in the Asian Junior Championships but the 18-year-old turned in a near-perfect performance in Kota Kinabalu yesterday to become only the second Malaysian to win the boys' singles title after Zulfadli Zulkifle's success two years ago in India.
A product of the BA of Malaysia's (BAM) development programme, the fifth seed showed nerves of steel after a second game hiccup to edge South Korean ninth seed Jin Jeon Hyuk 21-17, 13-21, 21-15 in 55 minutes.
Teck Zhi, sixth in the world junior rankings, was unstoppable in the first game but Jeon Hyuk levelled proceedings when the Malaysian made too many errors in the second.
However, Teck Zhi, showing great temperament, came out strongly in the third game against a tiring Jeon Hyuk and the Malaysian's quick anticipation at the net and powerful smashes earned him the title.
Teck Zhi has now put himself in the frame as one of the stronger contenders to become only the second Malaysian to win the World Junior Championships on Oct 23-Nov 3 in Bangkok. Zulfadli won the title in 2011.
Teck Zhi's triumph produced a ray of hope for a better future in Malaysia's singles department as those before him in the national squad have failed to make an impression. BAM, however, must nurture him accordingly to ensure he makes a smooth transition from junior to senior badminton.
"This is a great start for me. I hope to achieve more good results.
"I still have a long way to go but I am determined to work hard in my mission to become the country's top player," said a delighted Teck Zhi yesterday.
"I prepared well for this event as I wanted to make it count this time after skipping last year's edition.
"I am extremely delighted with this win as I managed to beat several top- ranked shuttlers. It proved I am progressing."
On yesterday's performance, Teck Zhi said he lost momentum in the second game because of the draught in the stadium.
"It was better in the deciding game as I read his game and took advantage of his weaknesses," added Teck Zhi, who recorded wins in last year's Asian Schools Championships and Asean Schools Championships.
China's top seeds Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen overcame unseeded compatriots Huang Kaixiang-Zheng Siwei 21-15, 21-14 to win the men's doubles crown.
In the women's singles, Aya Ohori became Japan's first champion after the third seed upset Thailand's top seed Busanan Ongbamrungphan 21-11, 16-21, 21-13 while Huang Dongping-Jia Yifan defeated Chen Qingchen-He Jiaxin 21-19, 21-16 in an all-China doubles final.
South Korea's top seeds Choi Sol Kyu-Chae Yoo Jung edged China's second seeds Liu Yuchen-Huang Dongping 21-11, 19-21, 21-13 in the mixed doubles final.
Read more: ASIAN JUNIOR CHAMPIONSHIPS: Champ in the making - Badminton - New Straits Times