Malaysia and Japan grab two titles each in Malaysia International Challenge
( *Credit image : The Star Online)
The struggles throughout the year ended on a bright note for Malaysia's singles player Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin and the men's double pair of Goh Sze Fei and Nur Izzuddin Rumsani in the fourth-tier Celcom Axiata Malaysia International Challenge which ended in Pasir Gudang on Sunday.
For world No 73 Iskandar it was sheer joy to win the men's singles crown when he defeated compatriot Leong Jun Hao 21-11, 21-13 - ending a year-long drought following a nagging back injury.
The much needed win for Iskandar earned the 26-year-old a respite after being plunged into a limbo - more so when he was hotly tipped to win a medal for Malaysia in the 29th SEA Games in Kuala Lumpur.
The 18-year-old Jun Hao it was his first final in a senior tournament.
Despite the defeat Jun Hao can walk talk with his recent achievements - winning the Asian Junior Under-19 title and finishing runners-up in the world junior meet.
Iskandar attributed his success to "experience and patience" in his win over Jun Hao and with his confidence boosted hopes to carry on with the momentum in his next tournament, which is the South Korea Masters later this month.
The men's doubles title was also Malaysia's for the taking.
In all-Malaysia final second seeds Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin defeated compatriots Shia Chun Kang-Tan Wee Gieen 21-19, 21-12 for their first title this year.
Japan won the women's and mixed doubles for their double.
Number two seeds Misato Aratama-Akane Watanabe brushed aside Thailand's Kittipak Dubthuk-Natcha Saengchote 21-18, 21-15.
In the mixed doubles Hiroki Okamura-Naru Shinoya upset top seeds - Malaysia-India combo of K. Yogendran-Prajakta Sawant 21-10, 24-22 for the title.
Ruselli Hartawan of Indonesia needed only 28 minutes to take the women's singles crown with a 21-14, 21-13 win over Lin Ying Chun of Chinese Taipei.
In the semi-finals the Indonesian upset tournament favourite Vu Thi Trang of Vietnam 21-16, 21-19.
Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin (MAS) beat Leong Jun Hao (MAS) 21-11, 21-13
Ruselli Hartawan (INA) beat Lin Ying-chu (TPE) 21-14, 21-13
Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin (MAS) beat Shia Chun Kang-Tan Wee Gieen (MAS) 21-19, 21-12
Misato Aratama-Akane Watanabe (JPN) Kittipak Dubthuk-Natcha Saengchote (THA) 21-18, 21-15
Hiroki Okamura-Naru Shinoya (JPN) beat K. Yogendran-Prajakta Sawant (MAS/IND)