Same old singles woe

Faces of the future: (from left) Ng Tze Yong, Justin Hoh, Eogene Ewe and Jacky Kok are part of the younger shuttlers in the singles department.

Rexy laments lack of depth in M’sia team, calls for a change

CHENGDU: It was mixed feelings for national coaching director Rexy Mainaky after Malaysia’s run in the Thomas Cup Finals ended in the semi-finals.

The team went down 1-3 to China at the Hi-Tech Zone Sports Center in Chengdu on Saturday.

Although disappointed to see his charges fail to reach the final, Rexy was still pleased with the team’s overall effort.

It was Malaysia’s first podium finish since the 2016 edition in Kunshan, China.

“Any country strong in badminton like China, Indonesia, South Korea or Denmark will be disappointed too if they do not reach the final and win the title,” said Rexy.

“I do feel some disappointment but we have to give credit to the players.

“We had to deal with many issues before the tournament but the players’ desire and spirit to do well was still high.”

Malaysia’s preparations for the team meet were hit by uncertainties in the singles with the country’s No. 1 Lee Zii Jia and No. 2 Ng Tze Yong’s availability a question mark.

It was later learned that the delay to confirm world No. 10 Zii Jia’s participation was due to negotiations regarding compensation for image rights.

Meanwhile, after much speculation regarding his fitness, world No. 18 Tze Yong was initially selected in the team but had to be dropped after failing to recover in time from a troublesome back injury.

In his absence, national No. 3 and world No. 37 Leong Jun Hao was promoted to second singles while 20-year-old debutant Justin Hoh and world No. 63 Cheam June Wei were selected to fill the third singles role.

In the semi-finals against China, Zii Jia lost 19-21, 5-21 to China’s world No. 2 Shi Yuqi while Jun Hao went down 17-21, 10-21 to world No. 6 Li Shifeng.

In the men’s doubles, world No. 5 Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik won the team’s solitary point by stunning world No. 1 Liang Weikeng-Wang Chang 15-21, 21-12, 21-17.

World No. 15 Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani then came close to dragging the tie into the deciding third singles match but went down fighting 21-18, 19-21, 12-21 to world No. 11 He Jiting-Ren Xiangyu.

Rexy believed that the lack of depth in the singles was one of the main reasons of the defeat.

“We need to strengthen the singles department if we want to win the Cup next time,” said Rexy.

“If you see, China have Yuqi, Shifeng, world No. 19 Lu Guangzu and Weng Hongyang (No. 16), who are all almost equally strong, while we were relying on Zii Jia to deliver a point.

“It’s not possible to only rely on one strong singles player and two doubles pairs in the team meet.

“With this team, we almost managed to drag the tie to the deciding match.

“Now, we need two or three solid singles players to back each other up.

“If one loses, the others must be able to deliver,” added Rexy.

The Indonesian also called for a review of the singles department.

“We need to review the training programme and the singles players’ attitude in training.

“In two years’ time (in the next edition), Jun Hao and Justin must be solid and be able to deliver consistently for the team.

“We also can’t afford to only rely on these two and Tze Yong but we must also develop the other players or they will be left behind.

“Players like 19-year-old Eogene (Ewe) and others, who have been in the senior team longer like Jacky Kok, Ong Ken Yon, Ong Zhen Yi and Chua Kim Sheng need to show more hunger.

“We need a more balanced team in the next Thomas Cup.

“We can’t afford to have this issue come up again. The coaches must also work hard and sacrifice their time, not just the players.

“There needs to be some progress in a year.”

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