By BERNAMA / Pic by TMR GRAPHIC
KUALA LUMPUR — Eighteen years on, Malaysia are still unable to end their losing streak to Japan as the national shuttlers went down 4-1 to the team from the Land of the Rising Sun in the mixed team Sudirman Cup tournament in Vantaa, Finland yesterday.
The heavy defeat saw Malaysia, who last beat Japan 3-2 in the group stage of the 2003 edition in the Netherlands, finish second in Group D while 2019 runners-up Japan top the group.
Tokyo Olympics men’s doubles bronze medallists Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik delivered Malaysia’s first and only point as they beat world number 16 Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi 22-20, 14-21, 21-16 in a gruelling 67-minute clash.
In the next game, toothless S. Kisona suffered her second straight loss in the tournament when she went down 14-21, 14-21 to world number five Akane Yamaguchi in the women’s singles as Japan levelled the tie at 1-1.
Then came the matchup that was billed the “clash of the Titans” as Japanese world number one Kento Momota took on reigning All England champion Lee Zii Jia in the men’s singles.
The Japanese, who came into the match seeking to avenge his quarter-final loss to Zii Jia in the All England, showed great fighting spirit as he came back from trailing by six points in the first game to overcome Zii Jia 21-18.
Energised at the Energia Areena, Momota then oozed class as he outplayed the 23-year-old Zii Jia 21-10 in the second game to put Japan 2-1 up.
The women’s doubles match saw Chiharu Shida bounce back from an early ankle injury in the first game to help partner Nami Matsuyama down Malaysia’s Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah 21-16, 21-17 for the winning point.
World number five mixed doubles pair Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino then capped off a wonderful day for the tournament’s second seeds as they prevailed 21-16, 21-9 over Hoo Pang Ron-Cheah Yee See for a convincing 4-1 triumph.
However, both Japan and Malaysia had already qualified for the quarter-finals prior to their matchup yesterday. Malaysia had confirmed their berth in the last eight after beating England 3-2 on Monday (Sept 27) and Egypt 5-0 on Sept 28.
The draw for today’s quarter-finals was held later yesterday in Vantaa.
In another Group D match, England trounced Egypt 5-0 to end their campaign in the third spot in Group D.
Meanwhile, the quarter-final draw saw Malaysia pitted against arch-rivals Indonesia and Japan against Chinese Taipei, with both matches to be played at 9 pm Malaysian time (4 pm local time).
Defending champions China will take on European powerhouse Denmark while South Korea will square off against Thailand in the other quarter-final ties, which will be held at 3 pm Malaysian time (10 am local time).