All Malaysia need to do now is to overcome South Korea in the quarter-finals of the Asia Team Championships in Manila today – a very do-able task.
Malaysia head into the knockout stage in buoyant mood after whipping India 4-1 to top Group B at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum yesterday.
Captain Lee Zii Jia led by example by getting Malaysia off to a flying start with a convincing 21-18, 21-15 win over last year’s World Championships bronze medallist B. Sai Praneeth.
The 21-year-old certainly handled the pressure well to clinch the crucial point with India, who boast a stronger line-up in the singles and had targeted to sweep all the three points in the event.
With team confidence boosted, All-England finalists Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik doubled the advantage by easily defeating scratch pair M. R. Arjun-Chirag Shetty 21-18, 21-15.
World No. 72 Cheam June Wei can hold his head up high despite coming up short against former world No. 1 K. Srikanth in the second singles tie.
He even took the first game before running out of gas to go down 21-14, 16-21, 19-21 to the world No. 15.
The match was already Malaysia’s to lose the moment Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi took to the court.
Facing an awkward combination of Dhruv Kapila and Lakhsya Sen, who’s a singles shuttler, the recently-crowned Thailand Masters champions strolled to a 21-14, 21-14 win to seal the top spot for Malaysia.
But the day clearly belonged to former Asian junior champion Leong Jun Hao, who is going from strength to strength since returning from a series of injuries last year.
No one gave the world No. 179 a ghost of a chance in the dead rubber but he turned the tables on Prannoy, a former Asian Badminton Championships bronze medallist, with a stylish 21-10, 21-15 win.
The convincing performance from the singles augurs well for Malaysia ahead of their clash against South Korea.
South Korea will be banking on Son Wan-ho and Heo Kwang-hee to deliver the goods as they do not have the depth in the doubles.
Their doubles department strength has been severely hit after Seo Seung-jae, who is ranked world No. 9 with Choi Sol-gyu, was suspended from the national team.
The talented 22-year-old was banned until Dec 31 after signing contracts with two professional teams simultaneously last month, according to reports by Korean media.
National team coaching director Wong Choong Hann believes Malaysia have a good chance of overcoming the Koreans if Zii Jia and teammates can repeat their top-notch display against India.
“I’m excited about the clash. The two sides are pretty equal, but I believe we have the upper hand thanks to the confidence built from today’s victory,” said Choong Hann.
“We are edging closer to the Thomas Cup Finals. It’s now up to us to ride on the good form and rise to the occasion when it matters most.”
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