By Mior Muzaffar Mior Dahalan, Badzine Correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur. Photos: Axiata Cup (live)
After Indonesia became the first team to clinch a playoff berth in the 2013 Axiata Cup on Saturday afternoon, Malaysia put in a shutout of Vietnam to seal their own chances of advancing. The Asian All Stars may be going right down to the wire – hoping they will fare at least as well as Europe when the two visitors face the top two teams on the final day of round robin play – but they did whittle the field down to five by mathematically eliminating Singapore as well in their sixth tie.
Malaysia started their tie against Vietnam with Sonia Cheah (pictured) again as their women’s singles representative. Sonia started brightly by winning the first game 21-11. But a lapse of concentration after leading 14-7 in the second game led to a strong comeback from Vu Thi Trang, who clawed back to win the second game 21-18.
The third game was quite similar, as Sonia imposed herself well and led at the interval with an 11-6 score line. Vu Thi Trang managed to get back into it but this time Sonia hold and firm finished off the match by winning 21-11.
“I played the first and third game well but I lost focus in the second game and didn’t have the patience. Anyhow it was a good experience and I’m glad I came out on top,” Sonia said afterwards.
On her chances against Tai Tzu Ying for tomorrow’s match, Sonia said, “She is a good player with a lot of experience. Yes, she is younger but she is also better. That is a fact, but I will try my best and try to win.”
In the second match, Chong Wei Feng of Malaysia started again for the men’s singles, playing against Vietnam’s Nguyen Hoang Nam. It was a confident win at the end for the young Malaysian, who prevailed 21-16, 21-13, to gain some confidence before a possible first ever showdown with Korea’s Lee Hyun Il.
“I had a tough match yesterday, so my legs are heavy today but at the same time I’ve adapted to the condition and that helped,” said Chong after his match.
When asked whether he wants to play against the Asia All Stars, he said, “Yes, I want to play in the next game and [Liew] Daren is still recovering from illness”. As for his targets this year, Wei Feng said, “I would like to be more consistent this year, compared to last year where I had my ups and downs”.
Up next was the mixed doubles game between Malaysia’s scratch pair Tan Boon Heong and Lim Yin Loo (pictured) against the Vietnamese pair Duong Bao Duc and Thai Thi Hong Gan. It was quite obvious the Malaysians are not used to playing with each other but they still managed to win the first game narrowly, 22-20.
The Malaysians could not keep the momentum and lost the second game but wrestled back the initiative and played with more aggression and won the decider comfortably 21-7. For the final tie, Malaysian pair Tan Wee Kiong / Hoon Thien How won the second match in a row by beating the Vietnamese pair Huynh Nguyen Khang / Bao Minh 21-7, 21-12.
Malaysian Head Coach Rashid Sidek was asked which team Malaysia would prefer to meet since they are already qualified to the semi-final of the tournament, he responded “Indonesia definitely is the strongest team in this tournament but whomever that we meet in the -inal, we will give our best to reach the final.”
In the earlier tie between the Asia All Stars and Singapore, Asia continued their fine run with big 4-0 win, a crucial success where their European rivals failed early in the tournament. World #9 Tai Tzu Ying (pictured) started the rout by beating Gu Juan 14-21, 21-11, 21-12.
“In the first game, I needed time to read my opponent. I could read her game in the second and third games. It’s good to have won another point for Asia,” said the 19-year-old from Taiwan.
Then Lee Hyun Il (pictured) got his 6th win in a row by beating Derek Wong, who was making his first appearance at this year’s Cup.
“I was lucky today that it was an easy game today and I think the tempo was with me today,” said the veteran Korean.
For the mixed doubles, Tarun Kona / Ashwini Ponnappa redeemed themselves with a straight games win today against the Singapore pair Liu Yi / Yao Lei 21-19, 21-17 after losing their match against Vietnam yesterday. And in the men’s doubles Bao Chulai and Zheng Bo made it a clean sweep to the Asian All Star by winning their match 28-26, 11-21, 21-16 against Terry Yeo and Danny B Chrisnanta of Singapore.
As for the semi-final berths, Indonesia and Malaysia, are already assured of their places in the semi-final with Thailand needing only one match win against the Philippines to mathematically clinch. The last semi-final spot will be contested between the All Stars of Asia and Europe with team Asia having the 2-point edge going into the final day.
While Europe All Stars will have a tough match with the Indonesia team awaits them, Asia will fancy their chances against the Malaysian team to get at least a draw, especially with their singles players Tai Tzu Ying and Lee Hyun Il playing exceptionally well so far in this tournament.