KUALA LUMPUR, Sept 30 – Malaysia was handed a mammoth task of qualifying for the Sudirman Cup semi-finals when they were drawn to face title contenders Indonesia in the quarter-finals which will be played at 9pm on Friday (Oct 1).
The young Malaysians could only finish runners-up in Group D after a 4-1 defeat to Japan in their final group match in Vantaa, Finland on Friday.
Indonesia has come with a strong team to regain the title they last won on home soil in 1989 but it has been a rather topsy turvy run for the Indonesians. Just like the Malaysians the Indonesians are also exposing some of their younger players in Vantaa.
If the Malaysians can play their cards right it could a tight race for a place in the last four but China, the defending champions, remain the favourites in the mixed team championships.
Group champions Japan will face Group B runners-up Taiwan, Group A winners China face Group runners-up Denmark while Group B champion South Korea is up against Group A runners-up Thailand.
In their final Group D match against the Japanese the first point went Malaysia’s way with Tokyo Olympics bronze medal winners Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik coming through a three-game thriller for a 22-20, 14-21, 21-16 win against Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi.
That was as far as the Malaysian challenge went against the mighty Japanese. Sea Games champion S. Kisona (ranked 53) was no match for World No 5 Akane Yamaguchi. Yamaguchi , the former world number one, needed only 32 minutes in her 21-14, 21-14 win.
World No 1 Kento Momota showed that he has overcome his Tokyo Olympics disappointment when he made short work of eighth ranked Lee Zii Jia in the men’s singles. Momota showed his class and character with a 21-16, 21-10 win in 47 minutes. The win was sweet revenge for the Japanese lost to the Malaysian in the All-England Championships in March. Zii Jia went on to win the title in Birmingham.
Japan swept to a 3-1 lead after the women’s doubles. Nami Matsuyama-Chiharu Shida, ranked 10, outplayed Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah, the Swiss Open champions, 21-16, 21-17 in 50 minutes. Shida had play with a heavily strapped left ankle just minutes into the match and needed time out for medical treatment for the injury. Despite, some discomfort, Japanese returned to court to play a vital role in the win .
Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino, (World No 5) handed Hoo Pang Ron-Cheah Yee See a 21-16, 21-9 beating in the mixed doubles for the fourth point. The Malaysians, ranked 27, however, can take consolation that they are a pair to watch.