Sonia fails to seize stage
THE stage was set for Sonia Cheah to be the heroine for Malaysia in the Asian junior badminton championships' mixed team final yesterday.
But her gallant efforts to be the star of the day were crushed in a 20-22, 15-21 defeat by Suo Di in a tense 45-minute battle.
With the defeat, Sonia failed to clinch the crucial third point for Malaysia to retain the title after her team had taken a 2-1 lead.
With the score levelled at 2-2, Malaysia knew that they were in a losing battle when Lai Pei Jing-Shevon Lai Jemie went on court for the deciding match. And the duo went down 7-21, 9-21 to the Asian and world junior champions Tang Jinhua-Xia Huan.
Malaysia failed in their bid for a flying start when the mixed doubles pair of Ow Yao Han-Lai Pei Jing lost 16-21, 17-21 to Liu Cheng-Bao Yixin.
But Zulfadli Zulkifli and Yao Han-Yew Hong Kheng brought Malaysia back into the fight when they won their matches in astounding fashion.
The 17-year-old Zulfadli gave a crafty show to outclass Huang Yuxiang 21-8, 21-11 while Yao Han-Hong Kheng were also in commanding form in bulldozing Li Gen-Song Ziwei 21-8, 21-11.
Sonia was disappointed with herself for letting slip a golden chance to make it a memorable debut in the mixed team competition.
"My opponent did not put pressure on me. I knew I had a chance but I was making all the mistakes. This is not the way to lose," she lamented.
Sonia was on the brink of defeat at 16-20 in the first game but gave a great chase to level the score at 20-20 before mistakes in the crucial stage handed victory to world junior semi-finalist Suo Di.
The close fight continued into the second game until 11-11 when Suo Di broke away, thanks to a string of unforced errors from the Malaysian.
"But it was a great learning experience. I will have to minimise my mistakes and focus on getting my act right in the individual events. I have never gone beyond the last 16 and hopefully, I will go far this time," said Sonia.
The Bukit Jalil Sports School's badminton chief coach, Sun Chenhua, said that the key to victory for Malaysia was in the opening mixed doubles match.
"Unfortunately, our pair did not live up to the expectations. The Chinese pair had the stronger finish in both games," he said.
"We knew we could count on the experience of Zulfadli and Yao Han-Hong Kheng and they delivered. They have good chances to win the individual events."
Chenhua added that although the team failed to retain the title, they were satisfied with the players' efforts.
"We had set a semi-final target but did better to finish as the runners-up. Sonia showed great fighting spirit. She need to build on her confidence and I think she has a good future," he said.
Source from The Star Online
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