Not forgetting Yeoh Kay Bin, who was AJC runner-up, forgot which year.
Zul is first Malaysian to win Asian Junior boys’ singles title
By RAJES PAUL
KUALA LUMPUR: Youngster Zulfadli Zulkifli has done what others before him have failed – become Malaysia’s first-ever shuttler to win the boys’ singles title at the Asian Junior Championships.
The 18-year-old Zulfadli created history in super style in Lucknow, India, yesterday when he pulled off a convincing 21-15, 21-17 win over local hopeful Verma Sameer in the 37-minute final.
This is Malaysia’s first title since the tournament’s inception in 1997.
Smashing first: Zulfadli Zulkifli showing off his gold medal after winning the boys’ singles title at the Asian Junior Championships Saturday.
Two others – Mohd Arif Abdul Latif and Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin – reached the final in 2007 and 2009 respectively.
What made Zulfadli’s victory even more remarkable is that he did not come through the Badminton Association Malaysia’s (BAM) training system.
The Kuala Lumpur player is coached by his father and is financially supported by KL Rackets (KLRC).
With his win yesterday, Zulfadli has proved that an independent player can also make it big if he or she is willing to work hard.
A modest Zulfadli was thrilled with his breakthrough.
“This is the happiest day for me. I have finally won the first Asian Junior boys’ singles title for Malaysia in my third attempt. This is an historic achievement for Malaysia,” Zulfadli said in a telephone interview from Lucknow.
“The home fans were rooting for Verma but I did not let it affect me. I stayed focused on my mission to win. I was not nervous, not even when I was leading 20-17 in the second game. I just wanted to end the long wait for Malaysia.”
The lanky Zulfadli is happy to be reaping the rewards of his hard labour.
“I am grateful to my dad-cum-coach ... he has always stood by me. I am also thankful to my sponsor KLRC, my family and friends. It feels good to have repaid the faith they all had in me,” he said.
“Being an independent player has its own set of challenges. The win today makes up for all the hurdles that I have had to go through.”
Zulfadli hopes his exploits in India is the beginning of better things to come. He is now eyeing more glory as he seeks to end his junior career on a high at the World Junior Championships, which will be held in Taiwan from Oct 28-Nov 6.
“This is my last year as a junior player and I am happy that I have achieved one of my main targets. Now, I want to win the world junior title for a perfect end to my junior career,” he said.
However, there was disappointment for Malaysia in the girls’ doubles event when Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean ran out of gas in the final – going down 18-21, 21-16, 12-21 to Indonesians Andini Suci Rizki-Nuraidah Tiara Rosalia.
Surprisingly, Indonesia were the biggest winners in the Asian junior meet when they also bagged the mixed doubles title. China and Taiwan took one title each.
So Zulfadli will most likely be 2nd seed for WJC, whereas Viktor will most likely be 1st seed. Then challenges from other countries making up the rest, probably Kim Bruun, Kento Momota etc will be seeded players (probably 9/16 or 5/8 seeds)
Congratulations to Zulfadli for becoming Malaysia's first ever Asian Junior Champion!
Although Viktor Axelsen would probably be far ahead of the other juniors due to his exposure on the scene, I hope that Zulfadli can at least go all the way and meet him for WJC. Still needs more consistency, he was superb in the individual event but just average in the team event. But I rather have him lose in team;win in individual than win in team; lose in individual