Old pairs add spice to the competition, says Wan Wah

KUALA LUMPUR: The young pairs are establishing themselves on the world stage but Malaysian veteran Lee Wan Wah feels that three old combinations will continue to pose some threat until the Beijing Olympics next year. 

He includes his combination with Choong Tan Fook as one of them together with Danish world number two Jens Eriksen-Martin Lundgaard Hansen and the now American-Indonesian combination of Tony Gunawan-Candra Wijaya. 

All three pairs will be in action in the Malaysian Open. The players are above 30-years-old with Eriksen being the oldest player at 37. 

Driven by a hope to qualify for their final Olympics, Wan Wah said that the veterans would remain among the top pairs on the circuit for a while more. 

“After some uncertainties, the Danes have announced that they will continue to play until the Beijing Olympics while our coaches also want us to reach the same goal,” said Wan Wah. 

“Some seasoned campaigners had been teamed up with a youngster. But barring any injuries, we (the veterans) will keep up with some of the top young pairs.” 

On the renewed partnership of Tony-Candra after a five-year lapse, Wan Wah said that the pair, who won the gold medal for Indonesia in the 2000 Sydney Olympics, would add more spice in the men’s doubles competition. 

“I’m not sure over their participation in the next Olympics and also whether they would try to qualify under US or Indonesia banner. But they will definitely be the pair to beat in Open tournaments,” he said. 

They competed in only four tournaments last year and have moved up to 16th spot in the world rankings. They won three of the four tournaments – in Indonesia, South Korea and Japan. In the Hong Kong Open, they reached the quarter-finals. 

In the upcoming Malaysian Open, Wan Wah-Tan Fook are in the same half of the draw as two-time All-England winners Eriksen-Lundgaard Hansen. But they have a string of fellow Malaysian rivals in their path to reach the semi-finals. 

Wan Wah-Tan Fook open their campaign against Danes Simon Mollyhus-Anders Kristiansen. A place in the second round could give them a match against Chan Chong Ming-Hoon Thien How or the Asian Games gold medallists Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong. Kien Keat-Boon Heong have to come through from the qualifying tournament. 

Barring any upsets, the joint third-fourth seeded Tan Fook-Wan Wah are expected to take on Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Lin Woon Fui in the quarter-finals. 

“We know each others' game so well and matches can go either way. But we will be out to achieve good results,” said Wan Wah. 

Eriksen-Lundgaard Hansen have in their quarter Indonesian youngsters Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan. 

In the top half of the draw, Tony-Candra are tipped to take on reigning world champions and top seeds Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng of China in the quarter-finals.  

Another prominent pair in the top half of the draw are Korean hot-shots Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jae-sung. 

For the record, except for Eriksen-Lundgaard Hansen, the other two veteran pairs have emerged as the Malaysian Open champions. Tony-Candra were winners in 1998 while Tan Fook-Wan Wah won it in 2005. 

In fact, Tony and Candra have also won the Malaysian Open title with different partners. Tony and Halim Hariyanto were champions in 1997 while Candra was a three-time winner with Sigit Budiarto (2000, 2001, 2005). 

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