PENGKALAN CHEPA: The Hashim brothers, Hafiz and Roslin, drew the biggest cheers from their home Kelantan fans as the Malaysian men's team sealed victory over South Korea in the three-leg Transnasional Invitation Challenge at the Tengku Anis Badminton Hall here early this morning.
Malaysia won the second-leg tie 4-1 and it followed a victory by the same margin in the opening tie in Alor Star on Monday.
The Malaysians thus made the Koreans eat humble pie. The Koreans had, on their arrival, expressed confidence of beating Malaysia with team manager Kim Jung-soo predicting taking the Challenge by a 2-1 margin.
In the tie, which began at 8.15 last night and ended at 1.35am, Malaysia again won all three singles with Kota Baru-born Hafiz and Roslin winning their matches in rubber games.
Wong Choong Hann had again set Malaysia on the road to victory, beating Shon Seung-mo 15-12, 17-16 in the first singles. Hafiz beat Lee Hyun-il 15-3, 14-17, 15-12 in the second singles while Roslin, who played the last match of the tie, defeated Jang Young-soo 15-9, 9-15, 15-2.
The winning point for Malaysia came in the fourth match with the scratch pair of Lee Wan Wah-Chew Choon Eng defeating All-England semi-finalists Yim Bang-eun-Kim Young-hyun 15-12, 15-9.
Malaysia fielded Hong Chieng Hun-Lin Woon Fui in the first doubles and they were beaten 15-12, 5-15, 4-15 by the scratch pair of Kim Dong-moon-Lee Jae-jin.
For the second-leg tie, South Korea decided against fielding their two strong doubles players – Ha Tae-kwon and Lee Dong-soo.
Tae-kwon, who forms the world number one partnership with Dong-moon, is nursing a leg injury while Dong-soo took a hit in the eye by the shuttlecock off a smash by Choon Eng in the first-leg tie.
World number six Choong Hann had to dig deep into his reserves to give Malaysia the first point, winning the match in 67 minutes to gain sweet revenge over Seung-mo, who defeated the Malaysian number one twice last year – in Busan Asian Games team competition and in the quarter-finals of the Korean Open.
Choong Hann, who had beaten Hyun-il in straight games in the first tie, said: “I was trying to switch pace in the middle of the second game and he managed to read my game. I lost my focus then and he managed to force deuce.”
Chieng Hun-Woon Fui gave a fighting performance but could not match the might of Dong-moon-Jae-jin. And All-England champion Hafiz had to slog for 74 minutes to restore Malaysia's lead against a fighting Hyun-il.
It was a renewal of partnership of sorts for Wan Wah and Choon Eng. They were together for about a year and even reached the semi-finals of the 1999 All-England and they did not disappoint against the young pair of Bang-eun-Yong-hun, clinching the winning point for Malaysia in 43 minutes.
As expected, the South Korean women's team won the Challenge, beating Malaysia 4-1 again.
But again, it was Wong Mew Choo, who stole a point off the much superior Koreans. She defeated world number 11 Kim Kyung-ran in straight games in the first tie but this time she had to come back from a game down to beat the Korean number one 5-11, 11-7, 11-5.
The gutsy performance by the world number 89 earned her a big applause from the crowd.
Malaysia and South Korea will thus have an equal share of the total prize money. The winners of the men's and women's Challenge will each get US$7,500 (RM28,500). The losers will each get US$2,500 (RM9,500).
The final round of the Challenge will be played in Kuala Lumpur on Saturday.