Sudirman Cup: Malaysia to the last four after 12 years

by BERNAMA / pic credit: BAMalaysia FB

KUALA LUMPUR – What a joy it was for Malaysia as the young national badminton team checked into the semi-finals of 2021 Sudirman Cup at Vantaa, Finland, after 12 years.

It was hard-earned victory as Malaysia had endured a long battle that lasting almost six hours to subdue their arch-rivals, Indonesia, 3-2, and equalised their best performance in the mixed team championship, they did back in the 2009 edition in Guangzhou, China.

It was also Malaysia’s first success over Indonesia in Sudirman Cup after three encounters since losing in the first meeting in the group stage of the 1999 edition in Copenhagen, Denmark, which saw the neighbouring rivals thrashed the national team 4-1.

Fiery Tokyo Olympics men’s doubles bronze medallists, Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik, handed a promising start for Malaysia as they powered past world’s number one, Marcus Fernaldi Gideon-Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo in the first game.

In a Tokyo Olympics quarter-finals replay, Aaron-Wooi Yik who won the tie last July, were clinical throughout the game, as they brushed aside the challenge from the Indonesian duo in straight sets, 21-12, 21-15, in 33 minutes.

Despite showing glimmers of hope, 2019 SEA Games women’s singles champion, S. Kisona couldn’t hold on as world’s number 21 Gregoria Mariska Tunjung kept her nerve till the end to level the score for Indonesia.

Gregoria overcame Kisona in a tight 67 minutes rubber set epic, 22-20, 18-21, 21-19.

Then, came the moment for All England 2021 champion, Lee Zii Jia as he was indeed in a class of his own to deliver Malaysia’s second point, trouncing Anthony Sinisuka Ginting in a remarkable fashion, 21-11, 21-16, and thus, recording his maiden victory against the Indonesian after four previous meetings.

Both players first met in the round of 32 in the 2019 French Open, where Anthony defeated the 23-year-old Kedahan, 21-16, 21-8.

Despite producing an impressive fighting spirit, it was not enough for up and coming women’s doubles pair, Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah to create an upset over Tokyo Olympics women’s doubles gold medallists, Greysia Polii-Apriyani Rahayu.

Greysia-Apriyani gave a lifeline to Indonesia, equalising the score 2-2, as they emerged victorious in an entertaining fourth match, 22-20, 17-21, 21-18.

In the final match, mixed doubles pair, Hoo Pang Ron-Cheah Yee See produced a heroic performance especially in the rubber set as they stunned world’s number four, Praveen Jordan-Melati Daeva Oktavianti, 21-16, to chalk up the winning point for Malaysia.

Hoo-Cheah had earlier won the first set 21-19 but they were never in the game in the second set, allowing Praveen-Melati to vanquish them 21-9.

A tricky road lies ahead for Malaysia in the semis as they will lock horns against 2019-runners-up Japan, once again at 9pm Malaysian time (4pm local time), after suffering a heavy 1-4  loss at the hands of the team from the Land of the Rising Sun in the last Group D tie on Sept 30.

Japan booked their semi-final berth following a victory over Chinese Taipei, 3-1.

Meanwhile, in the first session of the last eight, defending champions, China edged Denmark 3-2, to face South Korea, who emerged victorious against Thailand, also 3-2, in the semi-final at 3 pm Malaysian time (10 am local time).

The national squad kicked off their Group D campaign by recording a narrow 3-2 win over England on Sept 27, followed by a stunning 5-0 victory over Egypt, the day after, to confirm a spot in the last eight.