Thomas Cup experience has inspired Haikal to aim bigger with Hon Jian


Eager for action: Mohd Haikal Nazri (left) and Choong Hon Jian will now get the opportunity to take on the world’s top pairs, starting from the Thailand Open from May 14-19 in Bangkok.

PETALING JAYA: Watching some of the top men’s doubles pairs in the world battle it out in the Thomas Cup Finals has whetted shuttler Mohd Haikal Nazri’s appetite.

Haikal, who made his debut in the prestigious team meet in Chengdu last week, along with Choong Hon Jian only got to play one match against minnows Algeria.

The 21-year-old cheered on from the sidelines as his seniors Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik and Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani played more prominent roles in Malaysia’s run to the semi-finals.

Haikal and Hon Jian will now get the opportunity to take on the world’s top pairs themselves, starting from the Thailand Open from May 14-19 in Bangkok and are relishing the challenge.

“It was a great experience for me and Hon Jian to be part of the team in the Thomas Cup for the first time,” said Haikal after a training session at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara yesterday.

“Although we only got to play one match, we still learned a lot from watching the top pairs competing against each other.

“We got to see their communication and rotation on court and their ability to change their strategy quickly.

“We now want to play against these pairs and see where we stand.

“Only when you play against top pairs, you will be able to see where you have to improve on and you will keep progressing,” added Haikal.

Haikal-Hon Jian, who are currently ranked No. 28 in the world, are set to play South Korean veterans Kim Gi-jung-Kim Sa-rang in the first round of the Thailand tourney.

A win will likely pit the former against Indonesia’s world No. 9 Shohibul Fikri-Bagas Maulana in the second round.

India’s world No. 3 Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty are the only other top 10 pair in the fray in the tournament besides Shohibul-Bagas but Haikal is still expecting a tough challenge.

“It won’t be easy for us as the pairs that are playing are quite strong,” said Haikal.

“But we are the underdogs and the pressure will be less for us. So, we need to make full use of this opportunity.

“My target in every tournament is to reach the quarter-finals and beyond, so I will try my very best to do well with Hon Jian.”

Haikal and Hon Jian are also looking forward to competing in the Malaysian Masters (May 21-26), Indonesian Open (June 4-9) and Australian Open (June 11-16) after the Thailand tourney.

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