CHAN Yiwen-Ainaa Amani Ampandi were just hoping to enjoy themselves and soak in the atmosphere as Commonwealth Games debutants but they were left in disbelief after their stunning entry into the women’s doubles semi-finals.
Friday belonged to the Malaysians as Ainaa-Yiwen made it to the semi-finals with their more established compatriots Rachel Arnold-Aifa Azman to ensure a medal.
The 20-year-old Ainaa and Yiwen, 21, were not expected to go beyond the preliminaries but the young pair shocked world champions and top seeds Joshna Chinappa-Dipika Pallikal-Karthik of India 11-2, 11-7 in the quarter-finals that lasted just 21 minutes.
Rachel-Aifa had earlier overcome joint third seeds Rachael Grinham-Donna Lobban of Australia 11-9, 4-11, 11-10 to set the stage for a memorable day for the Malaysian camp.
Joshna-Dipika, the 2014 Common-wealth Games gold medallists, struggled to contain the attacking game of the Malaysians who played without fear and appeared to be enjoying every moment of the match at the University of Birming-ham Hockey and Squash Centre.
There were no signs of Ainaa-Yiwen being bogged down by the pressure of playing the favourites and it was the Indian pair who failed to weather the storm.
“I’m still in shock,” said an elated Yiwen.
“We just wanted to enjoy the Games because it’s our first outing at a Commonwealth Games and we didn’t expect to go this far.
“We just hoped that we could continue the momentum and we went out there without any pressure.”
Ainaa-Yiwen have another mountain to climb against defending champions Joelle King-Amanda Landers Murphy of New Zealand but after the Malaysian combination’s last-eight heroics, anything is possible today.
“Everyone in the Malaysian squad is in very high spirits now. It’s good to have two pairs to motivate each other and hopefully we can meet in the final. We saw Rachel and Aifa play in the first session and that really pumped us up!” added Yiwen.
National director of coaching and team manager Major (rtd) S. Maniam was struggling to find narratives to describe the brilliant show of the women’s doubles pairs.
“What an amazing performance of aggressive attacking play all the way as they (Yiwen-Ainaa) upset the formbooks to beat the world champions,” said Maniam.
“Aifa and Rachel were also in awesome form beat the Australians. They controlled the first game with aggressive drives and finishing shots at the right moments.”
Rachel, the most experienced player as she is appearing in her third Games, has been eyeing a Commonwealth Games medal since making her debut in 2014 and is glad she is just one match away from achieving her goal.
Rachel-Aifa will play second seeds Alison Waters-Sarah-Jane Perry of England in the last four today.
Rachel, partnering S. Sivasangari, lost to the English pair at the same stage at the World Doubles in Glasgow in April.
“We did well yesterday (Friday) to get through. I think we’ve got a good chance against them (Waters-Perry) if we continue to play the way we are doing right now,” said Rachel.
“Sangari and I played them in world doubles, so definitely gonna look back and see what we can do better.”
Meanwhile, Malaysia will have more to cheer as men’s doubles Ng Eain Yow-Ivan Yuen also advanced to the semi-finals yesterday.
The joint-fifth seeds defeated India’s Senthilkumar Velavan-Abhay Singh 11-8, 11-8 in the last eight.
They will play top seeds James Wilstrop-Declan James of England, who overcame Australia’s Cameron Pilley-Rhys Dowling 11-7, 11-4, in the last four today.