PETALING JAYA: Mixed doubles pair Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie needed one solid performance to put their career on track again and coincidentally, it has materialised in one of their favourite tournaments.
Critics may have brushed aside their chances of making a big headway in Basel last week but Shevon had expected something special.
It was here that they last reached a Badminton World Federation Tour final and it proved to be their lucky charm again as they stormed into a title showdown against rising China pair Jiang Shenbang-Wei Yaxin.
Although the Malaysians lost 21-17, 19-21, 21-17 to Shenbang-Yaxin, who were also the China Masters winning pair in Ruchang a week earlier, Shevon was happy with their performance.
“It was a great week, we always like to come here. We haven’t been in a final since last year, so that was good,” said Shevon.
“We have been in the (Swiss Open) final for two consecutive years.”
Their run also included a first-round win over experienced Indonesian pair Praveen Jordan-Melati Daeva, which had spurred them on.
Their coach Teo Kok Siang said the duo played well and must focus on performing consistently again.
“They showed good fight against the China pair. They were able to chase down from behind to win the second and this is what I want to see more from them,” said Kok Siang.
“They have to keep working hard and perform consistently. They need to overcome their own weaknesses and not to worry about their opponents.”
The European events did not start well for world No. 11 Soon Huat-Shevon when they lost in the second round of the All-England but with a confident run in the Swiss Open, the duo will be trying to go one better in the Spanish Masters that begins in Madrid today.
They are the only Malaysian pair in Madrid but are in a tough top half where they are expected to face Shenbang-Wei Yaxin again while victory could pit them against Thailand’s world no. 4 Dechapol Puavaranukroh-Sapsiree Taeratta–nachai in the last four.
Soon Huat-Shevon may want to keep their momentum and try to push for another week of quality badminton to keep pace with the other Malaysian pairs in the Olympic qualifying race that begins in May.
In the men’s singles, Cheam June Wei is the only player in the main draw where he plays Kanthaphon Wangcharoen of Thailand in the first round.
However, all eyes will be on Swiss Open champion Koki Watanabe of Japan if he is able to make another fairytale run to the title.
Watanabe, who beat Malaysian world No. 4 Lee Zii Jia (semi-finals) and Taiwan veteran Chou Tien-chen (22-20, 18-21, 21-12 in the final) to secure the title in Basel, could be challenged by his compatriots Kanta Tsuneyama and Kenta Nishimoto as well as India’s K. Srikanth in Madrid. The Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) players and pairs will not be part of the Spanish Masters after most of them had played in the last three tournaments – German Open, All-England and Swiss Open – in as many weeks.