Thomas Cup: Let’s knock down China’s Great Wall

CHENGDU — The national badminton squad is expected to face a tough task in its mission to break the Great Wall of China by defeating the hosts in the semi-finals of the Thomas Cup 2024 tomorrow to advance to the first final after 10 years, here.

Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) coaching director, Rexy Mainaky, however, wants the national players to perform aggressively to overcome the solid support of home fans who are expected to pack the Chengdu High-Tech Sports Zone Centre for the match scheduled at 5pm.

“I see China having the same strength in singles players while in doubles we have a 50-50 chance.

“With their status as hosts, they may be under pressure. Malaysia should take the opportunity to give the best performance and just enjoy the semi-final tomorrow,” he told the Malaysian media here.

Malaysia advanced to the semi-finals after eight years by eliminating the 2014 champions, Japan, 3-1, while China defeated defending champions India, also by 3-1, yesterday.

At the same time, Rexy reminded his players not to be swayed by the success over Japan and instead focus on facing China now.

The record of the last four matches between Malaysia and China in the team tournament since 2010 was not in the country’s favour as they lost all the matches.

The last time the two teams met in the Thomas Cup competition was in the 2012 edition in Wuhan, China, which saw the hosts defeat Malaysia, 3-0, in the quarter-finals.

In the meantime, the doubles expert from Indonesia praised the performance of the first singles player Lee Zii Jia (picture) and the second singles player Leong Jun Hao who put up an impressive performance while helping Malaysia beat Japan.

He said that Zii Jia’s composure helped the world number 10 player perform well and that situation fueled Jun Hao’s spirit to show a solid performance in the third match.

Zii Jia contributed the country’s first point by easily defeating Kenta Nishimoto 21-13, 21-3 while Jun Hao, ranked 37th in the world, shocked the 22nd ranked player, Koki Watanabe, 21-13, 21-10, to give the second point in the third game.

Despite starting well in the first set, Rexy admitted that the performance of 2022 world men’s doubles champion Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik was too passive and collapsed in the next two sets, losing to Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi, 21-18, 14-21, 19-21 .

“I saw that Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani was also too passive like Aaron-Wooi Yik in the first set but in the second set there was a slight change and in the third set they gained momentum until they managed to disrupt the opponent’s pace and control the match after that,” he said.

Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin emerged as the heroes by coming from behind against Akira Koga-Taichi Saito and finished the match 18-21, 21-15, 21-12, thus claiming the winning point for Malaysia to rekindle hopes of ending a 32-year title drought in the world prestigious team badminton tournament.

Meanwhile, Rexy said the role of psychologist Frederick Tan, who was brought in by the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) since February, started to have an impact when he managed to help the players maintain their mental strength to win the match against Japan yesterday.

The 2024 Thomas Cup is scheduled to end on Sunday. — BERNAMA