Rexy: We have our work cut out for Thomas Cup Finals

Malaysia’s men’s singles shuttler Eogene Ewe in action against Kazakhstan’s Makhsut Tajibullayev during the group match of Asia Team Championships at Setia Alam Convention Centre on Wednesday. — IZZRAFIQ ALIAS/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Work has to be doubled if Malaysia want to make a mark at the Thomas Cup Finals.

The team led by Lee Zii Jia have qualified for the Finals from April 27-May 5 in Chengdu, China, despite several hurdles by virtue of finishing as the runners up to China in the Asia Team Championships.

In the Asia meet, which is the qualifier for the Finals, defending champions Malaysia lost 0-3 to an under-strength China in the final at the Setia Alam Convention Centre on Sunday.

National coaching director Rexy Mainaky admitted that there was much work to do ahead of the prestigious team event. Malaysia last won the Thomas Cup in 1992 and came close to regaining it four times since then in the finals of 1994, 1998, 2002, and 2014.

“The team need to be solid for the Thomas Cup Finals. There are some areas where we need to improve on,” said Rexy.

“We will analyse the players’ performances in the upcoming individual tournaments before finalising the team for the team meet.”

He was, however, satisfied with their overall showing.

They had to deal with a back injury to Ng Tze Yong and Zii Jia’s health issues. Tze Yong withdrew from the semi-final tie onwards while Zii Jia did not see action against Singapore (quarter-finals) and final.

“The team did their best under the circumstances. If we had been at full strength, we would have stood a better chance,” said Rexy.

“Losing Zii Jia was similar to losing Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo in football.

In the tie against China, world No. 38 Leong Jun Hao was promoted to the first singles but he went down fighting 19-21, 17-21 to 2023 Denmark Open champion Weng Hongyang.

It went south after that as former world champions Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik went down to world No. 90 Xie Haonan-Zeng Weihan while the inexperienced 19-year-old Eogene Ewe slumped 10-21, 14-21 to world No. 35 Lei Lanxi.

“Jun Hao played his best but Hongyang was just a bit better. The first match win had given the Chinese doubles pair a lift and they could handle the pressure.

“Aaron and Wooi Yik did play well but followed the rhythm of their opponents too much in the first game and could not finish well in the third game.

“Eogene had never played in this situation before and he could not shoulder the heavy burden.

“Of course the fans wanted us to defend the title but China were the better team,” added Rexy.

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