MALAYSIAN badminton is at risk of coming back home empty-handed from the Asian Games.
The shuttlers’ chances have been dealt a cruel blow after receiving an unfavourable draw in the individual events starting today at the Istora Gelora Bung Karno.
Hopes were on the men’s doubles and mixed doubles to deliver the medals in the absence of three-time Olympic silver medallist Lee Chong Wei but it looks tough on paper.
Medal hopefuls Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong and Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying may cross paths with world No. 1 rivals Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Tontowi Ahmad-Liliyana Natsir of Indonesia as early as in the quarter-finals of their respective men’s doubles and mixed doubles events.
Marcus-Kevin and Tontowi-Liliyana will be a tough nut to crack, especially in their own backyard. The two pairs won Indonesian Open titles last month, backed by their vociferous home crowd.
Wee Kiong, however, stressed that the medal is won on the court, not on paper.
He recalled his Asiad debut in Incheon four years ago where he and V Shem claimed bronze despite being the unseeded pair.
They ousted third seeds Lee Sheng-mu-Tsai Chia-hsin of Taiwan and fifth seeds Hiroyuki Endo-Kenichi Hayakawa of Japan en route to the semi-finals before their gallant run was halted by South Korean top seeds Lee Yong-dae-Yoo Yeon-seong.
“We’re ready to face anyone – even Marcus-Kevin,” said Wee Kiong.
“The men’s doubles draw is always tough when it comes to top-flight events, moreover it’s the Asian Games. There are so many top pairs in Asia, you have to face one of them at some point.”
V Shem-Wee Kiong will face world No. 38 Kittinupong Kedren-Dechapol Puavaranukroh from Thailand in the first round.
“The first round is not an easy match. We lost to the Thai pair in the Asian Team Championships (in Alor Setar in February), so our focus is on beating them first before thinking of our potential clash against Marcus-Kevin,” said Wee Kiong.
Peng Soon-Liu Ying must be cursing their luck after being drawn in the same quarter as nemeses Tontowi-Liliyana, who remain one of the world’s top three pairs they failed to beat this year.
The world No. 9 suffered their career’s 10th defeat to Tontowi-Liliyana at the Indonesian Open final last month. Peng Soon-Liu Ying should overcome India’s Pranaav Jerry Chopra-Reddy N. Sikki Reddy in the first round.
Malaysia can also count on Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie for a possible podium finish, provided they can take down 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 of China.
“I could not ask for a tougher draw. But again, I really have nothing to lose. Chen Long’s form has taken a dip recently but he’s still a very strong player and will be fired up to win his first individual gold. Not a good time to meet him,” said Daren.
“But it’s the first hurdle against the Korean that I’ll have to pass first.”