JAKARTA: Malaysian shuttlers will have to punch above their weight to avoid returning empty-handed from the Asian Games for the first time in 32 years after being handed an intimidating draw in the individual events on Thursday (Aug 23).
Malaysia are aiming for two podium places in the men's doubles and the mixed doubles, but medal hopefuls Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie have tricky paths en route to the semi-finals.
World No. 11 V Shem-Wee Kiong, who will open their campaign against Thailand's Kittinupong Kedren-Dechapol Puavaranukroh, should make it to the quarter-finals where they are expected to face Indonesia's world No. 1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo.
The Malaysian pair lost to Marcus-Kevin in Malaysia's 3-1 defeat to Indonesia in the Thomas Cup quarter-finals in Bangkok in May.
V Shem-Wee Kiong also have China's Liu Cheng-Zhang Nan, the pair who broke their hearts in their bid for the 2016 Rio Olympic gold, for company on the top half of the draw.
The other Malaysian Olympic silver medallist pair Peng Soon-Liu Ying could not have asked for a tougher draw with nemesis Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia standing in their path to the last eight.
Malaysia's World No. 9 mixed pair have only beaten the world No. 1 once in their last 11 meetings.
The last six encounters ended in defeat, with the latest one being the final of the Indonesian Open last month.
Meanwhile, Soon Huat-Shevon have a good chance of making it to the semis, provided they pass the test against world No. 4 Tang Chun Man-Tse Ying-suet of Hong Kong in the second round.
In the men's singles, Liew Daren will have to reproduce the magic that earned him a surprise bronze at the World Championships in Nanjing earlier this month if he is to go far this week.
Daren should beat Heo Kwang-hee of South Korea in the first round to set up a second-round clash against Olympic champion Chen Long.
Malaysia, which bagged four bronzes from Incheon four years ago, have never failed to bring back at least a medal after the Seoul Games in 1986.
However, the bid to at least retain their men's team bronze has laready failed after the loss to Japan in the first round on Monday, and the Malaysian team have just four more events to make a difference.
FIRST ROUND DRAW
Mens's singles: Liew Daren vs Heo Kwang-hee (Kor); Lee Zii Jia vs Azeem Sarwar (Pak).
Men's doubles: Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong vs Kittinupong Kedren-Dechapol Puavaranukroh (Tha); Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi vs Reginald Lee Chun Hei-Or Chin Chung (Hkg).
Women's doubles: Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean vs Chen Hsiao-huan-Hu Ling-fang (Tpe).
Mixed doubles: Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying vs Pranaav Jerry Chopra-Reddy N. Sikki Reddy (Ind); Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie vs Wang Chi-lin-Lee Chia-hsin (Tpe).