Fu Haifeng (right) and Cai Yun are now being paired with younger players. Haifeng says their time as partners is over as they take on the new role of mentors with the China national team.
BIRMINGHAM: Four-time world champion Fu Haifeng believes that his 12-year partnership with Cai Yun has come to an end.
The 30-year-old Haifeng and Cai Yun are one of the most celebrated men’s doubles pairs in the world.
Together, they have won four world titles, an Olympic gold medal (2008), and led China to the Thomas Cup for six straight editions since 2004.
Although Haifeng is not ready to call time on his career, he believes that the partnership with Cai Yun is no longer viable.
In fact, Haifeng has already started trying out several different partners since the world championships in Guangzhou last year, namely with Hong Wei and Zhang Nan.
“We’re not that young any more and it’s hard for us to continue playing at the highest level,” said Haifeng, who is partnering Zhang Nan at the All-England.
“As such, I don’t see us coming back competitively as a pair. Our time as partners is now over.
“But, both of us still have important roles to play in the China national team ... as mentors.
“We’re mostly being paired up with younger players for two reasons. Firstly, to help speed up their development. Secondly, to build more depth in the national team,” added Haifeng.
With China’s top pair and world No. 6 Liu Xiaolong-Qiu Zihan currently struggling to find their form, it could very well derail China’s bid for a 10th Thomas Cup win.
Nevertheless, China seem to have no qualms experimenting with their doubles combinations. The BA of Malaysia (BAM) should also put some faith in allowing Tan Boon Heong to forge a strong partnership with the younger Ow Yao Han.
Boon Heong-Yao Han are due to make their debut in the Malaysian Open GP Gold from March 25-30 in Johor.
Meanwhile, Haifeng who won the All-England twice with Cai Yun in 2005 and 2009, takes on his former partner in the first round on Wednesday. The 34-year-old Cai Yun is partnered with 20-year-old Lu Kai.