Pakistan trio too strong for HK challenge

HONGKONG'S hopes of breaking Pakistan's domination of the Asian Junior Championships evaporated in Singapore last night when they lost 2-1 to the perennial champions in a hard-fought semi-final.

Pakistan went ahead through Kumail Mahmood, the losing finalist in the individual event earlier in the week, who demolished John Choi Wing-yiu 9-6, 9-0, 9-2 in the clash of the number twos.

But Jackie Lee Chun-kit put Hongkong back in the match by beating Asghar Khan 5-9, 9-3, 9-2, 9-4, proving that his triumph in the individual draw was no flash in the pan.

Lee had earlier this week broken Pakistan's stranglehold in the biennial event when he became the first non-Pakistani champion.

Hongkong's joy, however, was short-lived as Wong Wai-hang never really got into his stride against Akbar Khan, losing 9-6, 9-5, 9-2.

But, coach Allen Ngan Wai-ming was full of praise for his charges.

''There's no doubt we have the best player in the tournament in Jackie but Pakistan are a very balanced team and they have the edge over us at number two and three,'' said Ngan.

''Jackie did not play in our last preliminary-round match against Malaysia, and he came out fresh, scoring a much easier win over Asghar Khan than he did in the individuals quarter-final when he was stretched to five games.

''Unfortunately both John and Wong had five-game matches against Malaysia the night before and they looked tired.

''But, nevertheless, they gave it their best shots and the scorelines do not reflect the actual competitiveness of their matches.'' India defeated Malaysia in the other semi-final and Hongkong are favourites to win the play-off for third place today, having thrashed the Malaysians in the preliminaries.

The Hongkong girls' team, champions in Sri Lanka two years ago, will also face Malaysia in their final round-robin fixture.

The Malaysian girls have already wrapped up the title after a victory over Singapore last night and Hongkong, beaten by Singapore on Tuesday, must win to be runners-up.