Smash hits in the UAE

Timely booster: Cheah Liek Hou downed Dheva Anrimusthi, his potential rival for the Paralympics gold medal in Japan, in the singles final in Dubai yesterday.

PETALING JAYA: Tokyo Paralympics gold medal hopeful Cheah Liek Hou led the way as Malaysia secured a triple joy at the Dubai Para-Badminton International in the United Arab Emirates.

World No. 2 Liek Hou picked up the dominant form he left off 13 months ago by claiming the SU5 men’s singles title (impairment in upper body) with a morale-boosting 14-21,22-20,21-18 victory over arch-rival and world No. 1 Dheva Anrimusthi of Indonesia at the Shabab Al-Ahli Dubai Club yesterday.

Also making the country proud were Ikhwan Ramli and Noor Azwan Noorlan, who clinched their breakthrough titles in the WH1 (wheelchair) men’s singles and WH2 (wheelchair) men’s singles respectively.

For Liek Hou, it was a superb win in what could be the preview of his Tokyo Paralympics gold medal duel with Dheva this August.

Liek Hou twice came back from the brink of defeat – first saving four match points at 16-20 in the second game and then 12-15 in the decider to seal his second straight win in the last seven meetings against Dheva – the man who dethroned him as the world champion since 2011 in Basel two years ago.

“I’m just too tired to celebrate for now, it was a crazy battle, ” said Liek Hou after the energy-sapping 69-minute thriller.

Liek Hou was also delighted that he overcame another Indonesian – world No. 3 Suryo Nugroho of Indonesia – also a top contender in Tokyo – with a comprehensive 21-18,21-16 win in the semi-finals.

“It’s my target to beat both Dheva and Suryo in Dubai and I’m so happy to have achieved both. These were important wins in the run-up to the Tokyo Paralympics.”

Liek Hou has now won five tournaments on the trot.

Before the Covid-19 pandemic, he picked up four Open titles, winning in Denmark, Japan, Brazil and Peru between November 2019 and February last year.

Despite winning their maiden titles, Ikhwan and Azwan were just as impressive.

World No. 13 Ikhwan exacted sweet revenge on world No. 11 Frenchman David Toupe in a repeat of the 2018 final in Dubai by triumphing 23-21,21-13 this time.

World No. 45 Azwan, meanwhile, completed his fairy-tale run when he upstaged world No. 10 and top seed Rick Cornell Hellman 18-21,21-18,21-12 to mark one of the biggest upsets in the tournament.

During the group stage, Azwan also defeated world No. 15 and second seed Thomas Jacobs of France.

Unfortunately, Didin Taresoh fell short in making it a quadruple joy for Malaysia when he lost the SH6 men’s singles final 17-21,18-21 to India’s world No. 2 Nagar Krishna.

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