KUALA LUMPUR: National women’s doubles pair Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean could not have asked for a worse start in their bid to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.
The world No. 14 pair, who are skipping the Badminton Asian Championships (BAC) in Wuhan next week, will instead focus on the New Zealand Open in Auckland (April 30-May 5) as it offers them the first chance to earn Olympic qualifying points.
But as luck would have it, they have been given a tough opening round draw against world No. 2 Mayu Matsumoto-Wakana Nagahara of Japan.
The last time they met was in 2016, the Malaysians lost tamely 13-21, 14-21.
“Flying from Wuhan to Auckland is nearly 20 hours so it will be very tiring for us to play back-to-back tournaments,” said Meng Yean.
“Our target is the Olympics, so we have to do well in New Zealand. It’s not going to be easy against the Japanese.
“We badly want to prove that we have what it takes to make the Olympics. And the only way to show it is to beat them.”
In women’s doubles, Japan are the powerhouse with seven pairs in the top 15 world rankings of which three are at the top of the standings.
The world No. 1 are Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota and third ranked Misaki Matsutomo-Ayaka Takahashi.
But Meng Yean believes they are not very far behind the Japanese.
“We can catch up with them as we are almost on the same level. The only thing that separates us is they are mentally very strong.
“Even when they are tired they can still play smart and are very solid and consistent. But we are training very hard to match them in that aspect.”
The pair’s best outing this year was a runner-up finish at the Indian Open last month.
“After the Indian Open we were very happy and excited because we finally had a good result.”
But at the Malaysian Open, they were brought down to earth when they failed to get past Thailand’s Jongkolphan Kititharakul-Rawinda Prajongjai in the first round.
The Malaysians have only won twice in their last five meetings.
“We need to learn to stay calm and control our emotions to avoid unnecessary pressure. We are now focused on beating the top pairs more often to boost our confidence.”