Thai ace Kunlavut's battle against the Chinese
Two-time world junior champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn of Thailand remained on track in his chase for the elusive Asian Junior title when he marched into the semi-finals in the men's singles in the Badminton Asia Junior Championships in Suzhou, China on Friday.
The 18-year-old Thai, however, will have to clear two Chinese hurdles in his bid to add the world titles he won in 2017 in Yogjakarta and retained it in Markham, Canada last year.
The top-seeded Kunlavut will have to raise his game to a higher level in his semi-final clash against China's fifth seed Li Yun Ze after winning their respective quarter-final matches at the Suzhou Olympic Sports Centre.
Kunlavut had a much easier match against Ko Shing Hei of Hong Kong China in his 21-13, 21-14 win in 27 minutes while Yun Ze was fully stretched by compatriot Ren Cheng Ming before prevailing 21-12, 19-21, 21-19 in a 65-minute thriller.
The other semi-final will be between China's fourth Lu Liang and Su Li Yang of Chinese Taipei. Lu Liang ousted Chiang Chien Wei of Chinese Taipei 21-14, 21-19 in 32 minutes while Li Yang great tenacity to overcome Korea's sixth seed Park Hyeon Seung 21-14, 14-21, 21-14 in an hour.
"Kunlavut has shown great form in Suzhou. I expect him to be in the final at least. He has been playing with confidence," said his coach Udom Luangphetcharaporn.
Despite the early exit of women's top seed Phittayaporn Chaiwan, Thailand is counting on fifth seed Benyapa Aimsaard to keep the country's flag flying in the women's singles. Benyapa destroyed Indonesia's hope, third seed Putri Kusuma Wardani in straight games 21-16, 21-14.
Benyapa faces local favorite Zhou Meng who is seeded second. The Chinese defeated compatriot Dai Wang 21-18, 21-14. China has assured a place in the final as the second semi-final will be an All-China affair with Tan Ning taking on Han Qian Xi.
Singapore will feature in the men's doubles semi-finals after Howin Wong Jia How-Aaron Yong Chuan Shen defeated India's Ishan Bhatnagar-Vishnu Vardhan Goud 21-14, 21-19 in the quarter-finals.
Their opponents in the last four are China's top seeds Di Zi Jian-Wang Chang who roared to a 21-9, 21-13 win over Malaysia's Ooi Jhy Dar-Yap Roy King.
Indonesia's hopes lie with second seeds Leo Rolly Carnando-Daniel Marthin. The Indonesians fought back from a one-game deficit to beat Korean seventh seeds Ki Dong Ju-Kim Joon Young 18-21, 21-16, 21-18.