PETALING JAYA: Pearly Tan bled from an injury to her leg and M. Thinaah even collapsed in exhaustion.
The two put up a gallant performance despite their three-game 20-22, 21-8, 17-21 defeat to Baek Ha-na-Lee So-hee of South Korea in the women’s doubles final of the Malaysian Masters at Axiata Arena on Sunday.
Even when they were sprawled on the ground or on their knees, they returned every imaginable shot to underline their never-say-die attitude.
Naturally, they were in tears after the disappointment of missing out on a chance to end an 11-year wait for the women’s doubles title since Chin Eei Hui-Wong Pei Tty’s achievement in 2012.
But their fighting displays won the hearts of many Malaysians and men’s singles legend Lee Chong Wei.
The 39-year-old Chong Wei, who was present at the stadium, hailed their fighting spirit and believed Pearly-Thinaah could break the domination of Japan, China, South Korea and Indonesia in the women’s doubles if they continue to show their hunger on court.
Except for China’s top pairs, all others had featured in the Malaysian Masters, as it was the first Open tournament during the one-year qualifying period for the Paris Olympic Games.
Women’s doubles has never been a forte of Malaysia before this.
“I could feel their deep disappointments. I hugged Thinaah and Pearly as they headed into the team’s room one by one. I saw both vomiting after that ... it has been sheer exhaustion for them,” said Chong Wei, who is the manager for badminton under the Road to Gold programme.
“But the way they played was fantastic. It was extraordinary to see them fighting for every point even after playing for long hours in every match. They never gave up and showed this hunger that I’ve not seen among our players for a long time.
“I hope they will keep wanting more ... if they keep moving in this direction, we can break the stronghold of Japan, China, South Korea in this department.’’
Chong Wei had been heartbroken many times, but the most painful experiences were losing in the finals to Lin Dan in the World Championships in Wembley 2011 and Guangzhou 2013, and the London Olympic Games final in 2012.
“I was crushed. I know I had given my best but some people were critical. I just picked myself up and moved on. I want Pearly and Thinaah to do the same, come out of this disappointment stronger.
“I can see that they have great support from fans and this will surely motivate them to achieve more.”
Chong Wei was also pleased with Man Wei Chong-Tee Kai Win’s superb run that saw them beating the top pairs before losing in the final.
“They only lacked the experience playing in the final but are promising. I’m glad to see another pair stepping up,” added Chong Wei, who was inducted into the Badminton World Federation (BWF) Hall of Fame together with Lin Dan on Saturday.