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Malaysian juniors need more exposure

Malaysian coach Hendrawan conceded on Saturday that his young chargers need to play more matches if they are to make an impact on the world stage.

The former Indonesian international said this after Indonesia Rajawali thrashed Malaysia Leopards 3-0 in the first leg of the Axiata Cup semi-finals in Kuala Lumpur.

“Our target was the semi-finals and we have achieved that. The main thing from the Axiata Cup is to gain exposure. On paper, we have no chance to beat them. Hopefully the young boys can learn from this experience,” said the coach after the tie.

“Last week (in the group stages), they played much better. Perhaps the pressure of playing in the semi-finals got to them. They didn’t play as well as they can.”

The return leg will be in Jakarta on Sunday, with the Indonesian second stringers needing just one more win to be certain of qualifying for the finals which will be held on April 13 and 15.

They will be hoping for an all-Indonesian final as their seniors, Indonesia Garuda, hold a 2-1 advantage over Malaysia Tigers, with the return leg in Kuala Lumpur also on Sunday.

The Tigers, however, stand a good chance of reversing the outcome if world No. 1 Lee Chong Wei is fit to play. Chong Wei missed the earlier matches due to a right shoulder injury.

On Saturday, Indonesia Rajawali were a cut above the Malaysia Leopards, who froze under the spotlight.

In a battle between second generation stars, Tommy Sugiarto, son of former world champion Icuk, and Misbun Ramdan Misbun, the offspring of former Malaysian champion Misbun Sidek, did battle on centre court.

The more experienced Tommy, who is currently ranked 16 in the world had a slight problem in the second game due to the draft in the stadium, but still prevailed with a 21-17, 21-16 score-line.

“I was confident of winning this match and I’m glad I delivered. Misbun is a tough player and he had me at the back foot in the second game. I had difficulty playing against the wind which allowed him to open up a big lead.

“However, once I felt more confident with my shots, I managed to narrow the gap before finally getting the win.

“I knew I had to get the first point on the board to give my team the confidence going into the next two matches. Overall, I’m confident we can reach the final.”

World No. 11 pair Alvent Yulianto Chandra-Hendra Aprida Gunawan were fired up for their meeting with world junior champions Teo Ee Yi-Nelson Heg Wei Keat (above), as they had not played a match since the opening day of the tournament.

Showing a little rust in the beginning, the Indonesians warmed-up slowly before eventually taking the match 21-15, 22-20 to give Rajawali a 2-0 lead.

In the final tie, Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka thrashed world and Asian junior champion Zulfadli Zulkifli 21-11, 21-4 to give the Indonesians a healthy lead to take back to Jakarta.

“I didn’t expect such an easy victory. Perhaps he was nervous and couldn’t play his usual game,” said Dionysius.

A shell-shocked Zulfadli (left), said: “He is better player and I was not focus on the game. This is one of my worst performances ever. Physically, I was alright, but I just could not execute my game plan. If I get another chance tomorrow, I hope to show what I can do.”

The winners of the tournament will receive US$400,000 with the runners-up pocketing US$200,000. The losing semi-finalists will walk away with US$100,000 each.

For more information on the Axiata Cup, please click here.

 (Tommy Sugiarto bt Misbun Ramdan Misbun 21-17, 21-16; Alvent Yulianto Chandra-Hendra Aprida Gunawan bt Teo Ee Yi-Nelson Heg Wei Keat 21-15, 22-20; Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka bt Zulfadli Zulkifli 21-11, 21-4)

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