Former ace Boon Heong says M’sia have realistic chance in Thomas Cup, unity the key

Keen tussle: Aaron Chia (right) and Soh Wooi Yik lost to Indonesia’s Fajar Alfian-Rian Ardianto in the All-England final last month.

PETALING JAYA: Former national shuttler Tan Boon Heong believes Malaysia’s strength in the doubles should give the team confidence going into the Thomas Cup Finals from April 27-May 5 in Chengdu.

Doubles pairs Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik and Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani, who were both chosen for the prestigious team meet, have shown impressive form of late.

Aaron-Wooi Yik finished runners-up in the All-England in Birmingham last month and won bronze in the recent Asian Championships in Ningbo, China.

Tan Boon Heong. — AFPTan Boon Heong. — AFP

While the world No. 5 have been Malaysia’s most consistent performers over the last few years, Sze Fei-Izzuddin’s improvement has come as a pleasant surprise.

The world No. 19 pulled off huge upset wins over South Korea’s reigning world champions Kang Min-hyuk-Seo Seung-jae, Taiwan’s Olympic gold medallists Lee Yang-Wang Chi-lin and Aaron-Wooi Yik en route to the final in the Asian meet before going down fighting 17-21, 21-15, 10-21 to home favourites and world No. 3 Liang Weikeng-Wang Chang.

Boon Heong believes Sze Fei-Izzuddin’s timely rise is a positive sign for the team’s Thomas Cup challenge.

Promising youngster Mohd Haikal Nazri is the other doubles player selected in the team while Lee Zii Jia, Ng Tze Yong, Leong Jun Hao, Cheam June Wei and Justin Hoh have been included in the singles.

“The good news for us is that Sze Fei-Izzuddin are on form at the moment and with Aaron-Wooi Yik, we have two solid pairs,” said Boon Heong.

“Hopefully, the singles players can perform well too. They need to support each other and build their confidence before the tournament.”

Boon Heong also emphasised that team spirit will be key for the team in the competition.

The 36-year-old knows a thing or two about team spirit as he was part of the team that unexpectedly won silver in the 2014 edition in New Delhi.

“Honestly, our team in 2014 were not very strong but we had good team spirit. The opportunity was there for us and we took it well. You just never know as they might be a chance to go far. This time, we have quite a balanced team.

“Our players need to believe in themselves and be positive about their chances.”

Malaysia will open their campaign against Hong Kong in Group D before playing Algeria and Denmark.

Only the top two teams will qualify for the last eight.

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