Aaron-Soh won’t take new Japan top pair for granted

Strong and sturdy: Malaysia will need Aaron Chia (left) and Soh Wooi Yik to be at their best and deliver if they plan to upset Japan. — AP

PETALING JAYA: Shuttler Soh Wooi Yik believes Japan’s newly-minted No. 1 men’s pair Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi will be a tough nut to crack in the Sudirman Cup.

Despite having an advantage in terms of better world ranking and head-to-head record, Wooi Yik has a reason to be cautious as Hoki-Kobayashi had surprised many to reach the final of the World Championships in 2019.

The world mixed team event starts today in Vantaa, Finland, but Malaysia led by world No. 8 and Olympics bronze medallists Wooi Yik-Aaron Chia will only take on Japan on Thursday in their third Group D tie. They will play England tomorrow and Egypt on Tuesday.

Hoki-Kobayashi have become their country’s top pair following the retirement of seasoned campaigners Hiroyuki Endo, Takeshi Kamura and Keigo Sonoda, the world No. 5 and No. 6 respectively.

Endo’s departure has left Yuta Watanabe, with whom he won two All-England titles, without a partner but it has been reported that the latter will be focusing only on the mixed doubles with Arisa Higashino.

The absence of these two pairs should open up an opportunity for Malaysia to secure a point from the men’s doubles match.

But Wooi Yik insisted that it would be a folly to take their opponents lightly.

“The last time we played Hoki-Kobayashi was at the Asian Team meet (in the Philippines in February last year) and we won (21-18, 21-15). We will be hoping to carry the same confidence if we are chosen to play against them,” said Wooi Yik.

“But it’s also been a while since we met them and I’m sure a lot of things may have changed. They could have improved. We need to be at our best.

Malaysia will need Aaron-Wooi Yik to deliver if they plan to upset Japan.

The men’s doubles matches in the Sudirman Cup have certainly lost some spark due to the absence of some of the world’s top pairs.

Besides Aaron-Wooi Yik, only three Indonesian pairs – Kevin Sanjaya-Marcus Fernaldi (world No. 1), Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan (No. 2) and Fajar Alfian-Muhammad Rian Ardianto (No.7) are in the fray from the top 10 bracket.

Taiwan and China are without their Olympics gold medallists Lee Yang-Wang Chi-lin and silver medallists Li Junhui-Liu Yuchen respectively, so are India and England as they will play without their country’s No. 1s Chirag Shetty-Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chris Langridge-Marcus Ellis.

“I think this Sudirman Cup is the best event to test the quality of the young shuttlers. Many teams have sent a young team, including us,” said Wooi Yik.

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