Badminton Life

Malaysia Aiming to Strengthen Pool of Players

Malaysia left Jakarta satisfied with their performance in the Thomas Cup but fully aware that they need to find more quality in depth if they are to be among the best teams in the world.

The Malaysians reached the semi-finals of the Thomas Cup, losing a narrow 3-2 decision to eventual champions China.

World number two Lee Chong Wei firmly established himself as a world-class player when he beat top-ranked Chinese player Lin Dan 21-12, 21-14 in the first singles.

Lee has been a fantastic servant to Malaysian badminton over the past few years and his victory over the world champion was testament to his skill, temperament and dedication.

However, China's doubles pair of Cai Yun and Fu Haifeng quickly levelled matters with an easy 21-16, 21-17 victory over Malaysia's former All England champions Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong.

Bao Chunlai, ranked number three in the world, then beat Wong Choong Hann 21-18, 21-7 to give China a 2-1 lead. It was probably Wong's last appearance in the Thomas Cup.

Malaysia forced a decider when Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif and Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari beat China's second pair Xie Zhongbo and Guo Zhendong 21-7, 21-15.

But Chen Jin ensured China a place in the final with a 21-12, 21-16 win over Muhammad Hafiz Hashim.

National chief coach Yap Kim Hock said he and his coaching team will immediately start grooming players to lead Malaysian badminton in the near future.

"We cannot wait until the next Thomas Cup Finals to identify our players. We have to select a few back-up players now and groom them," Yap was quoted in the Malaysian media as saying.

"Probably, only Chong Wei will still be there for the next Finals. We need three more good singles players. We also must have a suitable coach to handle them. The back-up players selected must be given the proper exposure."

There were great hopes on the Koo and Tan combination giving Malaysia a point against China. Since winning the All England men's doubles title in 2007, the pair have failed to maintain their standards.

At one time, Koo was being criticised for his "party lifestyle". However, on the day, it was Tan that let the team down with his erratic play.

Yap, however, was delighted with the performance of Zakry and Fairuzizuan, who made it 2-2 against China.

He said: "They proved their status as one our top pairs. If Tan Fook-Wan Wah quit, we know we can depend on them to take over. Koo and Tan will have to learn to be more consistent. We have quality players but our job gets tougher because we have to deal with each player's weaknesses.

"To have two players in top form on the same day is not easy but we will work on it."

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