Malaysia Masters: Arif/Yap Growing in Confidence

Their second-place finish at the Spain Masters in March and a first Super 500 quarterfinal appearance at last week’s Thailand Open meant Junaidi Arif and Yap Roy King arrived at the PERODUA Malaysia Masters 2024 in buoyant mood.

It showed in their opening round match on Tuesday as the young Malaysians brushed aside China’s Xie Hao Nan/Zeng Wei Han 21-16 21-12 in just 38 minutes with an entertaining front-footed display.

Paired in March last year, the world No.47s went inactive for three months after Yap sustained injuries to his anterior cruciate ligament at the Syed Modi International in December.

They made up for the lost time by marching into the title match – beating the Paris 2024 Olympic Games-headed Popov brothers in the semis – in just their second tournament back in Madrid, where they went down fighting to Sabar Karyaman Gutama/Moh Reza Pahlevi Isfahani 21-18 17-21 21-19.

“We lost a close final but after coming home we trained with new-found confidence,” said Arif, 21. “Some of the uncertainties about my game had disappeared. It was a good learning experience.”

Before Yap’s injury, the duo enjoyed a decent year, winning the Nantes International Challenge in June and the National Championships a month later.

Yap, two years older than Arif, said: “We have to credit the coaches, they saw something in us. Then we built our confidence by playing well at tournaments. It’s growing with each match.

“I trust my partner a lot. We want to break into the top 32 this year.”

Arif (second right) and Yap on the podium in Madrid.

In Bangkok, their journey was halted by world No.3s and eventual champions Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty in the last eight in a one-sided affair. Arif/Yap’s next assignment is equally formidable against fourth seeds Lee Jhe Huei/Yang Po Hsuan.

“That loss taught us a lot. We realise we have some way to go before we reach their standards. But it gives us motivation, because that’s what we aspire to become,” said Arif, who is looking to impress at their home tournament.

“We feel stimulated playing in front of our fans. We want to use their support as inspiration, and prove to them we can compete with better pairs,” he said.

That includes four higher-ranked Malaysian tandems – Arif/Yap are in the same half as fifth seeds Goh Sze Fei/Nur Izzuddin. Former world champions Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik, Man Wei Chong/Tee Kai Wun and Choong Hon Jian/Muhammad Haikal are the other pairs.

How do Arif/Yap view this competition within their camp?

“It’s a healthy one,” assured Yap. “We push each other and at the end of the day, it’s good for Malaysian badminton, especially men’s doubles.”

Results (Day 1)

Order of play (Day 2)

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