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Monday, April 21, 2008

Asian Badminton Championship Post Mortem & Thomas Cup Analysis

Malaysia failed to win any titles at the just concluded Asian Badminton Championships, with both our top tier men and women players bowing out unexpectedly. Our men, Lee Chong Wei, Kien Keat and Boon Heong, and Tan Fook and Wan Wah failed to reach the finals, while Wong Mew Choo bowed out early too.

While some may brand the Asian Badminton Championship as a total disaster of an outing for Malaysia, there were several pleasing performances, especially from our second tier players. Wong Choong Hann and Hafiz Hashim managed to scalp Chen Yu and Bao Chunlai, a welcoming improvement in the depth of our Men's Singles, which before this, was experiencing a crisis. This certainly takes some pressure of Lee Chong Wei to perform, knowing that he has several notable players to back him up. Kien Keat and Boon Heong on the other hand, according to my calculations, which will officially take over as Malaysia's top Men's Doubles pair at the Thomas Cup, put up a commendable fight against Lee and Jung of Korea, but ultimately faltered.

Which brings us to the Thomas Cup, going to be held in Jakarta at the famed Istora Senayan. While some might comment that Malaysia have been left in a worse than ever position after the Asian Badminton Championships (ABC), I would say that Malaysia is now in a stronger position compared to before they participated in the ABC. There are several reasons for this:

- With the stepping up of Choong Hann and Hafiz Hashim, some pressure can be relieved on Lee, who is expected to deliver a point in all Thomas Cup ties. We all know how much pressure can affect a player's ability.

- The 2nd MS and 3rd MS ties can now be regarded as 'hopes' for team Malaysia to clinch a point. Previously, the 2nd and 3rd MS were regarded as 'sure losses'.

- After unconvincing performances of Kien Keat and Boon Heong throughout the past few tournaments, they have now stood up with their brave and spirited performance against Jung and Lee. This certainly puts to rest many fears that Koo and Tan are slipping further and further away as the Thomas Cup approaches.

- Koo and Tan take over as MD1. I believe this is a good thing for team Malaysia. Why? Lets just look at the possible matchups:

against China:
I believe Koo and Tan stand a better chance against Cai and Fu than Choong and Lee. With Koo and Tan as MD1, Malaysia's chances of sweeping both MD points, a must if Malaysia wants to win, looks brighter than if Malaysia were to field Choong/Lee as MD1.

against Indonesia:
Koo and Tan fare better against Markis and Kido than Choong and Lee will. Koo and Tan have never been defeated by the pair, while Choong and Lee have consistently lost to them. I believe both Choong and Lee and Koo and Tan will both have equal chance of defeating Candra/Nova or Alvent/Luluk, the possible 2nd Indonesian MD.

However, with the improvement of the Malaysian squad, the Korean squad's improvement is also a worrying trend, seeing that they are in the same group as us. Although we beat them in the Asian Qualifying finals, they were fielding a weaker team. If full strength Korea vs. full strength Malaysia would be matched up:

Lee vs. Park (55:45)
Koo/Tan vs. Jung/Lee (45:55)
Choong Hann vs. Hyun Il (45:55)
Choong/Lee vs. Hwang/Lee (50:50)
Hafiz vs. Seung Mo (50:50)

... Korea will hold the upper hand. However, Korea beating us might not necessarily be a bad thing, as then we will be placed away from China's half of the draw. However, this would severely affect the morale of the team, which is seen as a contributing factor in Malaysia's shock lost to Denmark in the 2006 semifinals.

Nevertheless, we all know anything can happen in Thomas Cup. How else do you explain China's lost to Malaysia in the 2002 and 1992 semifinals? How else do you explain Denmark's lost to Indonesia in the 2000 semifinals? Players are known to step up and perform beyond their normal capabilities in the Thomas Cup, and hopefully, the Malaysian players will.



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Spicebear said...

Was pleasantly surprised to stumble upon your blog, as I'm also a fellow badminton fan! Nice observations there about KKK/TBH being the better choice against INA and CHN MD1. But recent form really suggests a loss of form. Last year they were devastating; seeing them play was like watching the match in fast forward mode! Can we put our trust in them as MD1?

Still, they may be a better choice than CTF/LWW, who still likes to play the old fashioned defensive game, unsuitable for the modern fast attacking style.

Victor Ching said...

spicebar: My observation tells me that Koo and Tan are peaking at the moment, and will continue peaking throughout the Thomas Cup. I can't say that for the Olympics though.