Thailand Open: ’10 Marks for Effort’

Leong Jun Hao gave himself a big pat on the back after a fighting display almost knocked out home favourite and defending champion Kunlavut Vitidsarn from the TOYOTA Thailand Open 2024 second round.

Leong and Vitidsarn, rivals in their junior days, served up a gruelling 92-minute thriller, leaving fans on the edge of their Nimibutr Stadium seats in Bangkok.

Leong edged the opener 22-20 before Vitidsarn took the second game 21-14. The decider was nip and tuck with the world champion unable to establish a lead of more than two points after the interval. Trailing 19-18, Leong’s two straight points left him with a chance to wrap up proceedings but Vitidsarn aced three of the last four rallies to seal his progress.

“I played well and was consistent throughout but I was maybe missing a bit of luck,” said Leong, who came into the match 3-1 ahead in the head-to-head.

“I give myself 10 marks (out of 10) for effort. What I had, what I needed, I was able to produce. I squeezed every last inch out, it just wasn’t my day.”

Following today’s showing and his decent performance two weeks ago at the Thomas Cup, where he beat higher-ranked Koki Watanabe and Ng Ka Long Angus, the world No.37 is optimistic there’s more to come from him.

“I learned a lot in Chengdu and beat some established names. I came away feeling more confident in my ability,” said the 24-year-old.

“I’m participating at higher level tournaments frequently now. As I play more matches against the top shuttlers, I will improve. The experience will make me a better player for sure.”

Vitidsarn complimenting Leong after their battle.

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