PETALING JAYA: Let’s do it once again!
Doubles ace Aaron Chia has rallied the troops ahead of Malaysia’s final Group D clash with Japan as he’s quietly confident that the team can repeat their stunning win at the Asia Team Championship in Manila last February.
Then, Malaysia crushed Japan 3-0 in the semi-finals courtesy of victories from Lee Zii Jia, Cheam June Wei and Aaron-Wooi Yik.
Zii Jia, already the skipper at that time, inspired his teammates by defeating Kanta Tsuneyama in the opening match before Aaron-Wooi Yik doubled the advantage with a win over Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi.
June Wei then turned hero for the team when he stunned Kenta Nishimoto to seal the winning point.
Fast forward 20 months, both sides will most likely name a similar line-up - at least for the opening three matches.
The only expected notable change for today’s clash, perhaps, is that world No. 1 Kento Momota will return to spearhead the singles charge with Tsuneyama assuming the second singles role.
Aaron is hopeful that their previous win can inspire a carbon copy today.
“We’ve done it before and I believe we can pull it off once more,” said Aaron, who’s buoyed by Malaysia’s dominant 5-0 win over Canada on Tuesday.
“I always have the confidence in our squad. We’re a team made up of all fighters and have the ability to beat anyone.
“I can see the fire in everyone’s eyes. With a top-two finish secured, all of us want to finish as the group champions.”
Aaron is anticipating a third duel with Hoki-Kobayashi in a span of weeks, but he’s also not ruling out that the Japanese could throw a powerful Yuta Watanabe into the equation to form a scratch combination.
“We have to be cautious as the Japanese might spring a tactical surprise.
“If they are to gamble with a scratch combination, Yuta could come into the picture. Anything is possible,” said Aaron.
“But should we get to take on Takuro-Yugo once more, there will be an added motivation for us because we want to avenge our Sudirman Cup defeat (in the semi-finals) recently.”
Malaysia are expected to revert to their existing doubles partnerships after Aaron-Wooi Yik and Nur Izzuddin Rumsani-Goh Sze Fei swapped partners against Canada.
June Wei should also retain his role in the second singles following his impressive 21-14, 21-14 win over world No. 46 Jason Ho-Shue.
The world No. 70 is ready to take the game to Japan once more, saying that he’s unfazed by the prospects of taking on either Tsuneyama or Nishimoto.
“I still remember vividly the victory we secured in Manila. The players that played for both teams at that time time could feature in tomorrow’s match again,” said June Wei.
“We shall put up an even more energetic performance and repeat the same result.”
Asked if he’s encouraged by Tsuneyama’s loss to Brian Yang earlier, he said: “At a major tournament like this, I think all players stand a chance against each other.
“It all depends on who is in the best condition and can control the situation inside the court better.
“And of course, I have strong confidence to win a point for Malaysia.”