Badminton Life

Despite The Hurdles, Malaysia Set To Smash The Opposition To Bag Thomas Cup

KUALA LUMPUR, May 8 (Bernama) -- The Malaysian men's team will be playing against all odds in their mission to bring back the Thomas Cup which Malaysia last won in 1992, when the prestigious Thomas and Uber Cup tournament kicks off at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil on Sunday.

Led by skipper Datuk Lee Chong Wei, the other men's singles players are Wong Choong Hann, Muhd Hafiz Hashim and Tan Chun Seang while their doubles are Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong, Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif/Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari and Hoon Tien How/Ong Soon Hock.

Despite the problems which demoralised the players such as the sacking of Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) secretary-general Ganga Rao, the RM2 million incentive debt and communication breakdown among the doubles, the team managed to display patriotism and unison, especially during the team-building course in Port Dickson, three weeks ago.

Rao's case is now over, the government has paid the incentive while the men's doubles, especially Mohd Zakry/Mohd Fairuzizuan, have promised to work closely, in and outside the court.

And a week before the tournament started, the men's singles chief coach, Rashid Sidek, was hospitalised and quarantined when he tested positive for Influenza A (H1N1).

Two days later, Rashids' brother, Misbun, who is also the men's singles coach, was quarantined when three of his children were hospitalised due to high fever.

Rashid and Misbun however, were discharged from their quarantine and resumed duty on Saturday.

Judging from the men's team list, the burden still lies with world number one men's singles player Chong Wei, who has been consistent after securing three championships since January.

He began the year by winning the Malaysian Open Super Series in January, and followed up that feat by clinching the Korean Open Super Series the same month and added the prestigious All England singles title in March.

Choong Hann and Hafiz meanwhile, have gone through a lean spell, since last year.

As for the doubles pairs, Koo/Tan won the Malaysia Open Super Series while Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif/Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari remain a competitive pair despite failing to land any title.

Malaysia, seeded third in the Thomas Cup after Indonesia and China, was drawn in Group B, together with the sixth seeds, Japan and minnow Nigeria.

The country is expected to have an easy path against Nigeria but will face resistance against Japan.

Chong Wei however, should be extra careful when playing against the Japanese new star, Kenichi Tago, who pulled a surprise by marching to the All England final but the Malaysian beat him in straight sets.

Group A comprises China, South Korea and Peru; Japan, Malaysia and Nigeria (Group B), Denmark, Germany and Poland (Group C) while Group D is made up of Indonesia, India and Australia.

Two teams from each Group will march to the quarter-finals.

BAM president Datuk Nadzmi Salleh has predicted that only five countries -- China, Indonesia, South Korea, Denmark and Malaysia -- stood a chance to win the prestigious Thomas Cup.

For the first time ever, world governing body, Badminton World Federation (BWF) has changed the Thomas and Uber Cup format by introducing a fresh draw for the quarter-finals.

The move will prevent any team from choosing their rivals in the cross-over quarter-finals.

Malaysia's former doubles specialist, Jalani Sidek, who played alongside his brother Razif in the winning 1992 squad, said on paper, Malaysia would easily cruise to the quarter-finals.

"But the draw for the quarter-finals knock-out stage is crucial for every team as they can't choose their opponents.

"If Malaysia meet either Denmark or Indonesia in the quarter-finals, I believe we can meet the semi-finals target," he said.

Meanwhile, Malaysia's women's team might need a miracle to meet their semifinals target in the Uber Cup.

They might be fresh from winning the gold medal at the Laos SEA Games last December but without two experienced players, Lydia Cheah and Julia Wong, who are injured, the semifinals target might be a tall order for them.

Lydia was replaced by Sanatasah Saniru and Julia, by Sonia Cheah.

The other women's singles are Wong Mew Choo and Tee Jing Yee while the doubles are Chin Ee Hui/Wong Pei Tty, Woon Khee Wei/Vivian Hoo Kah Mun and Goh Lui Ying/Ng Hui Ling.

Malaysia, the sixth seed in the Uber Cup, was drawn in Group A, together with the top seed, China, and the United States of America seeded 11th.

Group B comprises Indonesia, Denmark and Australia; Japan, Russia and Germany (Group C) and South Korea, India and South Africa (Group D).

China is tipped to win the Uber Cup for the 12th time, having won it six times consecutively, since the 1998 edition.

The Greal Wall women's team also won the Uber Cup in the 1984 edition, for five consecutive times until the 1992 edition.

Source from BERNAMA

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