KUALA LUMPUR: Two factors – sheer determination and revenge – saw Malaysia whitewash Japan 3-0 to reach the men’s final of the Asia Team Championships.
Skipper Lee Zii Jia set the tempo for the underdogs when the world No. 14 upstaged world No. 10 Kanta Tsuneyama 21-11,8-21,21-11 to give Malaysia a flying start in the semi-finals yesterday at the Rizal Memorial Coliseum in Manila, the Philippines.
Then, it was followed by back-to-back victories as Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik and Cheam June Wei avenged their defeats against their opponents to give Malaysia deserving points and a place in the final against top seeds Indonesia.
Aaron-Wooi Yik took only 35 minutes to beat Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi 21-18,21-15 to make up for their disappointment of losing to the same pair a year ago in their first meeting at the Malaysian Open last year.
For world No. 73 June Wei, the win was even sweeter.
He had come under fire after losing to world No. 13 Kenta Nishimoto at the Thailand Masters just last month but yesterday, he proved his critics wrong again by upstaging Nishimoto 21-19,3-21,21-12 to deliver the winning point.
It’s the second time June Wei has turned hero for the team. On Friday, he also clinched the important point – a win against seasoned campaigner Son Wan-ho en route to Malaysia’s 3-0 win against South Korea.
The 21-year-old Zii Jia was singing praises of his teammates.
Not many had given them a chance to even reach the semi-finals but they did not only book a ticket for the Thomas Cup Finals in Aarhus, Denmark, from May 19-24 by virtue of being one of the top four teams in the Asian meet but now, they are on the brink of even challenging for the title.
“I’m very proud of my team, every one in the team went the extra mile to give their best to enter the final, ” said Zii Jia.
“It’s only a qualifying tournament for the Thomas Cup Finals but it means so much to each one of us.
“We’ll not stop here but continue to fight and do our best to make all Malaysians proud of us.”
Aaron, who reached the All-England final with Wooi Yik last year, was also thrilled with their win yesterday and promised to break the stronghold of Indonesian doubles.
On paper, they have a tough chance against world No. 1 Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo.
“It’s great that we exacted revenge over the Japanese after changing our game plan. It was close all the way but I’m glad we hung on there, ” said Aaron.
“I think, we always stand a chance against the Indonesians. It’ll be 50-50 and we’ll give our all.”
National coaching director Wong Choong Hann was delighted with the team’s determination and applauded June Wei for playing the right tactical game.
“June Wei was left behind quite far by his opponent in the second game, rather than going all out, he threw the game and shifted all his focus in the decider and it worked, ” said Choong Hann.
On the final tie against top seeds Indonesia, who came through some anxious moments before prevailing 3-2 against India yesterday, Choong Hann said: “Indonesia are a matured team compared to our team for future.”
“But our players have been dishing out some fine performances here and I hope they’ll believe in themselves to deliver again tomorrow (today, at 4pm).”
Malaysia bt Japan 3-0 (Lee Zii Jia bt Kanta Tsuneyama 21-11,8-21,21-11; Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik bt Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi 21-18,21-15; Cheam June Wei bt Kenta Nishimoto 21-19,3-21,21-12).Indonesia bt India 3-2 (Anthony Ginting bt B. Sai Praneeth 21-6, rtd; Jonatan Christie lost to Lakshya Sen 18-21,20-22; Mohd Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan bt M.R. Arjun-Dhruv Kapila 21-10,14-21,23-21; Shesar Hiren Rhustavito lost to Subhankar Dey 17-21,15-21; Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo bt Lakshya Sen-Chirag Shetty 21-6,21-13).
Japan bt Malaysia 3-0 (Akane Yamaguchi bt Soniia Cheah 21-17,21-18; Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota bt Lee Meng Yean-Yap Cheng Wen 21-11,21-4; Aya Ohori bt S. Kisona 21-13,21-13).South Korea bt Thailand 3-1 (An Se-young bt Busanan Ongbamrungphan 24-22,21-17; Lee Seo-yee-Shin Seung-chan bt Jongkolphan Kititharakul-Rawinda Prajongjai 12-21,21-19,21-11; Sung Ji-hyun lost to Pornpawee Chochuwong 21-18,18-21,21-23; Kim So-yeong-Kong Hee-yong (Kor) bt Chayanit Chaladchalam-Phataimas Muenwong 22-20,20-22,21-13).
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