AXIATA CUP Day 3 – Triumphs and upsets

Malaysia Tigers and Indonesia Rajawali booked their tickets to the semi-finals of the Axiata Cup, as they are the top two teams of Group K.  On the other hand, it […]

Malaysia Tigers and Indonesia Rajawali booked their tickets to the semi-finals of the , as they are the top two teams of Group K.  On the other hand, it is end of the road for Thailand and Philippines, as they were unable to secure enough points to be among the top two teams in Group K. Thailand did perform well on the final day of group action to overwhelm the Philippines team. The Malaysia Tigers failed to do the same with the Indonesia Rajawali.

By Adrian Kok, Badzine Correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur.  Photos: Kennee Wong (live)

The first team tie of Day 3 of the Axiata Cup preliminary rounds was Thailand against Philippines.  Boonsak Ponsana did not break a sweat in the first game with Paul Jefferson Vivas of the Philippines. Boonsak’s crafty moves and shots prove to be a challenge for the young Filipino. Armed with advice from the coach, Paul began to play with a better rhythm. Nevertheless, Boonsak was able to break that rhythm to seal the match in straight games.

Next, Mathias Boe / Ronel Estanislao played with all their might against Maneepong Jongjit / Nipithon Phuangphuapet of Thailand.  Both pairs were evenly matched but Boe/Ronel were not able to close the deal and lost out to the Thai pair in the first game. The Philippine scratch pair took the match into a rubber game when they were able to nab the second game with more hard-hitting shots.  The Thais dominated the decider by capitalizing on Ronel’s weakness and went on to win the match.

To wrap up the first half of the event, Antonio Benjamin Gadi (pictured) of Philippines battled it hard with Thai opponent, Suppanyu Avihingsanon. Gadi did his best to outdo to the taller Thai but was unable to do so. Suppanyu has more tactical experience that the Filipino, and this earned him a straight-game victory.

Philippines manager Arolas Amahit Jr could still afford a smile and said: “This was a good learning experience for us. We knew the chances of us winning a match would be slim, but to have the opportunity to play against some of the best players in the world is just as important. I hope they will turn this tournament into an ASEAN league, as it will give badminton more exposure in our country. We lost all our matches, but the exposure and experience we gained will help our players become better players.”

The Malaysia Tigers continued to field Hafiz Hashim as the first singles, and this time the veteran was to take on Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka (pictured top), to whom he lost in the first round of this year’s Malaysia Open.  It was a slow start for the Malaysian; nonetheless, he picked up pace toward the end of the first game and pushed through to win it.

Hayom was more focused in the second game that gave him a lead. The Indonesian pounced on many loose returns to force the match into a rubber game. Hafiz was struggling to find his tempo because Hayom was outmaneuvering him and the former All England champion could not hold the fort and lost for the second time this year.

“I am actually not feeling well but did try my best to finish the match in straight games,” said Hafiz. “Hayom played an attacking game in the second game, which I found hard to keep up with. I have been playing three days in a row, which has taken its toll. Overall, I believe my performance in this tournament was much better compared to the Thomas Cup qualifying in Macau last month but I still need to work on my physical strength.”

It was an intense first game for the young Indonesian pair of Angga Pratama / Ryan Agung Saputra (pictured) as Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong constantly attacked them. The Malaysian Tiger number one pair ended the first game after a mere 20 minutes. Just like yesterday, Koo and Tan dropped the second game after a great opener. The younger Indonesian pair was relentless in their attacks and managed to penetrate the Malaysians’ defense and force a rubber.

Koo and Tan had a rough ride in the third game, as they seemed to have lost focus. Angga/ Ryan continued to capitalize on the lack of focus by the Malaysian to win the match. This is the first upset by the upcoming Indonesian pair.

In the final match of the preliminary rounds, Liew Daren (pictured) avoided a whitewash by defeating Shesar Hiren Rhustavito in straight games. Both players were equally matched but Daren was able to close out both games, backed by the roaring support of the home fans.

Despite the defeat, Malaysia Tigers captain Lee Chong Wei, who sat out the preliminary rounds with a right shoulder injury, is confident they can turn the tables in the semi-finals.

“It doesn’t matter that we lost today as I’m confident we can still go to Jakarta and beat the Garuda team,” said the world No. 1, who could be back in action for the semi-finals.

“Of course we are disappointed with the result,” added coach Rashid Sidek.  “We thought we could win but after Hafiz lost in three games, so did Koo and Tan. We missed Chong Wei and it showed today. I do not know if he will be back for the semis as it is the doctor’s call.

“Even today, he was hurting as he couldn’t help the team. But we have to think long term. Our main goal now is the Olympics. If he comes back to play in the semis and gets injured, who will bear the responsibility?

“The other players have to buck up and prove they can fill the void. Overall, there are many reasons to be pleased but the fact is we lost. We have to go back and plan how we are going to attack the semis.  The Indonesians surprised us today with their line-up. We may have lost to their second team but there is no reason why we cannot beat their first team.”

Sunday Results – Group K

Philippines 0,  Thailand 3

Boonsak Ponsana bt Paul Jefferson Vivas 21-8, 21-12
Maneepong Jongjit / Nipithon Phuangphuapet bt Mathias Boe / Ronel Estanislao 21-18, 20-22, 21-12
Suppanyu Avihingsanon bt Antonio Benjamin Gadi 21-13, 21-15

Indonesia Rajawali 2, Malaysia Tigers 1

Dionysius Hayom Rumbaka bt Hafiz Hashim 16-21, 21-18, 21-10
Angga Pratama / Ryan Agung Saputra bt Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong 10-21, 21-18, 21-13
Shesar Hiren Rhustavito lost to Liew Daren 19-21, 13-19


About Adrian Kok