PETALING JAYA: Youngster Mohd Arif Abdul Latif got off to a flying start in his first year as a senior player by winning two titles in the Iran Fajr International badminton tournament in Teheran, which ended on Tuesday.
The 19-year-old Arif, who was promoted to Rashid Sidek’s Project 2010-12 squad this year, bagged the singles and doubles titles in the US$5,000 tournament.
In the singles final, the eighth-seeded Arif scored an upset 21-18, 21-18 win over second seed Kestutis Navickas of Lithuania for his first senior title.
He then partnered Vountus Indra Mawan to defeat Iran’s Nikzad Shiri-Ali Shahosseni 21-15, 14-21, 21-8 to make it a double joy for Malaysia.
Arif, the Asian Junior runner-up, said that the double victory had put him in good stead ahead of the Thomas Cup qualifying tournament, which will be held in Ho Chi Minh City from Feb 19-24.
Arif is one of the four men’s singles players lined up for the qualifiers. The others are seasoned campaigners – national number one Lee Chong Wei, Wong Choong Hann and Mohd Hafiz Hashim.
“It is certainly a good start for me. I have won my first senior title although not in a major tournament. For me, it is timely as I am preparing for the Thomas Cup Asian qualifiers,” said Arif.
“I am still overawed over my selection to the team for the qualifiers.
“Hopefully, I will get to play in at least one of the ties. It will be a great experience for me.”
With his victory in the Badminton World Federation’s (BWF) second lowest graded tournament in Teheran, Arif can expect an improvement in his world rankings. He is now ranked 92nd in the world.