KUALA TERENGGANU: Coach Rexy Mainaky chose not to crack the whip even though the national men's doubles pairs gave some uninspiring performances in the National Grand Prix Finals.
He is looking beyond the GP Finals and will be disappointed if none of his pairs end Malaysia's 35-year wait for an All-England men's doubles title. The tournament will be held in Birmingham from March 6-11.
The last Malaysian winners in the event were the Sidek brothers, Jalani and Razif, in 1982.
All the top six pairs in the country – Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah, Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Lin Woon Fui, Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif-Gan Teik Chai, Ong Soon Hock-Tan Bin Shen, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong and Chan Chong Ming-Hoon Thien How – will compete in the All-England.
Except for veterans Tan Fook-Wan Wah, all the other pairs took part in the National GP Finals.
Zakry-Teik Chai took the biggest blow in the annual national tournament, losing to Bukit Jalil Sports School's Lim Khim Wah-Mak Hee Chun in a group match.
Injuries also forced Chong Ming and Teik Chai to withdraw from the men's doubles and mixed doubles competitions respectively.
After a good showing against Kien Keat-Boon Heong, the second ranked pair of Fairuzizuan-Woon Fui failed to defend the title, going down tamely to Bin Shen-Soon Hock in the semi-finals.
For the All-England, Kien Keat-Boon Heong are seen as Malaysia's best bets to win the title.
Prior to winning the national title for the first time, the duo also became the first Malaysian pair in 36 years to win the Asian Games gold medal in Doha last December. They followed up with victory in the Malaysian Open and a semi-final appearance in the Korean Open last month.
“I am not worried about the players' performances in the GP Finals. My concern is on how they will fare at the All-England. I want a Malaysian pair to win the title,” said Rexy.
“This is a challenge for the players. Every pair has a mission to accomplish at the All-England. For some, it will decide their future in the national team. Malaysia have not won the doubles title for a long time and I want the players to nail it this time.”
At the All-England last year, Malaysia had three pairs in the semi-finals. Tan Fook-Wan Wah finished as runners-up and their fate in the national team will be decided after the prestigious tournament.
Fairuzizuan-Woon Fui, who were also the semi-finalists in the All-England last year, have been targeted to justify their place in the national team after losing tamely in the Malaysian and Korean Opens.
And there is hope to see better commitment from Zakry, who together with Teik Chai were also semi-finalists in Birmingham last year.