After three days of preliminary action, four teams have emerged as the strongest to reach the Axiata Cup semi-finals. Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Europe All Stars are currently the leaders in the round-robin stage.
By Angga Maulana Akbar, Badzine Correspondent. Photos: Axiata Cup (live)
Day 3 was opened by the two host countries, Indonesia and Malaysia on the court. Both hosts shared the score as Indonesia made it draw against Malaysia. Indonesia ruled the singles yet failed to play better in doubles, where this week’s visitors had fielded two world top five pairs.
The score became 2-0 for Indonesia after Bellaetrix Manuputty won against Tee Jing Yi and Tommy Sugiarto got the best of Chong Wei Feng, both in straight games. Mixed doubles saw the Japan Open Superseries 2012 champions Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying and the half of the runner-up pair from that same tournament but Muhammad Rijal could fare no better with his regular partner Debby Susanto. The Malaysians played better than the Indonesians to put the first point on the board for their team.
Malaysia made it an even draw as the men’s doubles world #2 Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong (pictured above) defeated Hendra Setiawan, who was left partnering Ryan Agung Saputro when Muhammad Ahsan skipped the Saturday matches for a wedding. A controversial decision made by a line judge in extra points contributed to an edge by the former All England champions, who won it 21-12, 26-24.
“Indonesia was very strong and we were quite lucky to draw this match. I think it’s quite satisfying that we managed to come-from-behind to share the points,” said Malaysian national singles head coach Rashid Sidek.
“Right now Indonesia are definitely stronger than us but it was always a 50-50 game and we were hoping that [Chong] Wei Feng could win his match.”
Thailand prevailed over Singapore 4-0 to remain the third unbeaten team besides Malaysia and Indonesia. The Thai victory was started by All England finalist Ratchanok Intanon, who won against Liang Xiaoyu. Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk dropped his first game but eventually continued his teammate’s success by defeating Huang Chao.
Former world number 1 mixed doubles Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam also had to struggle somewhat before making it past Danny Bawa Chisnanta / Vanessa Neo to raise the score to 3-0. Singles specialist Boonsak Ponsana again teamed up with Songphon Anugritayawon (pictured right) to prevail in the weekest discipline for both team. They won over Terry Yeo / Liu Yi in two.
The battle of the All Stars
Day 3 of the Axiata Cup also saw a continental duel between Europe and Asia with the luck ending up on the European side. Carolina Marin (pictured left) came to the court as the starter to face Yip Pui Yin. Marin, who has been playing impressively in this tournament, played with no fear and won 21-19, 18-21, 21-18 in a match lasting over one hour. The score drew level, however, after Lee Hyun Il defeated Scott Evans of Ireland 21-13, 21-11.
In the last two matches, Europe All Stars showed good performance. When two former mixed doubles World Champions took to the court, 2006 champion Nathan Robertson and his girlfriend Jenny Wallwork benefited from their longer partnership to beat out 2010 champion Zheng Bo, in a scratch pairing with India’s Ashwini Ponnappa. Europe had the same experience edge in men’s doubles, where Asia again fielded a scratch pairing, Tarun Kona and Bao Chunlai, and lost to Ivan Sozonov / Vladimir Ivanov of Russia, who are currently Europe’s second best doubles combination.
The other matches saw the two underdogs in this tournament, the Philippines and Vietnam. Mark Shelley Alcala (pictured) made a good start for the Philippines by overcoming Nguyen Hoang Nam 21-17, 24-22 to earn the island republic’s first point of this year’s competition. The other matches, however, belonged to Vietnam. Duong Bo Duc / Thai Thi Hong Gan won the duel in mixed doubles against Phillip Joper Escueta / Bianca Ysabel Carlos. Meanwhile, Vu Thi Trang prevailed over the Philippines’ women’s singles ace Malvinne Ann Venice Alcala 21-15, 21-17. Duong Bao Duc made it two victories when he partnered Nguyen Hoang Nam in men’s doubles and suppressed Paul Jefferson Vivas / Peter Gabriel Magnaye’s 18-21, 21-9, 21-15.
Sunday will see the fourth installment of the preliminary round robin, with each team’s remaining three matches to be played next weekend, in both Surabaya and Kuala Lumpur.