PETALING JAYA: Mixed doubles shuttler Goh Soon Huat’s motivation has doubled ahead of his trip to Bangkok for the Asian leg of the World Tour next month.
The 30-year-old Soon Huat and partner Shevon Lai Jemie are back on course to make the top-eight cut for the season-ending event from Jan 27-31 following the withdrawal of Chinese top pairs – world No. 1 and Zheng Siwei-Huang Yaqiong and No. 2 Wang Yilyu-Huang Dongping – from all tournaments in Thailand.
The entire Chinese team have pulled out in the eleventh hour from the two Opens from Jan 12-17 and Jan 19-23 at the Impact Arena in Bangkok after being barred from leaving the country by their government due to Covid-19 concerns.
In their absence, Soon Huat-Shevon have a better chance to seal a coveted berth in the World Tour Finals as they have been provisionally moved up from 10th to eighth in the standings, as Siwei-Yaqiong and Yilyu-Dongping are fourth and fifth respectively.
Also benefitting from these Chinese pairs withdrawals are Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing, who climbed two spots to sixth, brightening hopes of Malaysia being represented by two maximum pairs in the prestigious Finals. Only the top eight pairs will feature in the Finals.
Soon Huat said they were all pumped up to do well in both the Thailand Opens to secure their second Finals appearance having debuted in Guangzhou in 2018.
“This is a good development for us and it makes us look forward to the resumption of World Tour with even more excitement next month, ” said Soon Huat.
“We got to take the advantage (in the absence of the two Chinese pairs) and cement our place in the top eight and qualify for the Finals this time.”
The draw, however, wasn’t too kind for Soon Huat-Shevon as they look set to cross path against world No. 3 and top seeds Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taeratannachai in the second round of both Opens.
Fortunately, the Thais are familiar foes whom they are capable of beating as Soon Huat-Shevon hold a superior head-to-head record, winning six out of 11 meetings between the two pairs.
This include two most recent victories at last year’s Opens in China and Hong Kong, both in quarter-finals.
“We have played them many times, and it has always been a 50-50 game, ” said Soon Huat.
“For sure this time it will be tougher as they have home ground advantage but we have quite a good record against them and this should give us some confidence heading into our possible clashes.”
A coincidence or not, Soon Huat-Shevon will open their campaigns against French opponents Ronan Labar-Anne Tran in the first round of the two tournaments.
Malaysia will be represented also by the other pairs in Bangkok - Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying, Kian Meng-Pei Jing and Hoo Pang Ron-Cheah Yee See.
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