Fierce battle on the cards

Showcase of young talent: Yusof (third right) and organiseres are expecting an exciting International Junior Age Group tournament. With them is state Youth, Sports, Women, Fmaily adn Community Development Committee chairman Lydia Ong Kok Fooi.

THE number of participants may have dropped dras-tically but the Penang Lawn Tennis Association (PLTA) is confident the 27th edition of their International Junior Age Group tennis challenge will not lose it glitter.

The tournament attracted only 330 players this year, a drop of 17.5% compared to the 400 juniors who took part in the four age group categories for both boys and girls last year.

The five-day tourney, to be held at three venues, will start on Tuesday.

Association president Yusof Ismail is, however, unperturbed about the drop in numbers.

He is confident that their annual tennis showcase of young talent will still be just as exciting as ever and the battle for honours just as fiery.

He attributed the drop of entries to the clash of dates with the Singapore Masters.

“Unfortunately for us, that has prevented many Singapore players from keeping their date with us,” he said.

With Singapore sending one of the biggest contingents to our annual challenge last year, their sudden absence due to their domestic commitments is a blow,” he added.

Yusof, however, remains optimistic about the event as there are still many interesting foreign entries, especially those from South Korea and Indo-nesia.

“The Koreans have confirmed 15 players,” he said.

“After a relatively poor showing in last year’s campaign, they can be expected to bring on their more notable youngsters this season as they will be eager to make amends.”

Singapore, incidentally, still heads the list of foreign players with 48 participants.

“Indonesia will bring eight of their best for this year’s challenge.

“This is a reward for their juniors for their good showing at domestic level,” he said.

“They have also confirmed that their top junior ace Moha-med Iqbal Ansori is among the travelling party.

“ Mohamed Iqbal will be here to defend the Boy’s Under-14 singles crown he won last year,” Yusof said.

The other seven foreign countries who have confirmed participation are South Africa who are sending 12 players, Uzbekistan (nine), Kyrgyzstan (five), the Philippines (five), Thailand (four), Kazakstan (four) and Russia (three).

Joining the 113 foreign players at the challenge will be 217 Malaysians from Penang, Perlis, Kedah, Perak, Selangor, Kuala Lumpur, Kelantan and Sarawak.

The venues are Penang Sports Club (PSC), Chinese Recreation Club (CRC) and the courts at Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

Selangor’s Joshua Gerald Liu, who has been given top billing in the Boys’ Under-14 category, is expected to spearhead the Malaysian challenge.

Pahang’s Ti Jia Wei, this year’s Malaysia Games (SUKMA) runner-up, is expected to do likewise in the Girls’ Under-14 event.

Yusof said the Under-10 age group matches would be played at PSC while the Under-16 matches would be held at CRC.

USM will be the battle ground for both the Boys’ and Girls’ Under-12 and Under-14 cate-gories.

Yusof also said Penang was making a serious bid to host one of the legs of the Asian Tennis Federation Under-14 series next year.

He said the leg would be held in March next year if their bid was successful.

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