SUDIRMAN CUP 2013 Day 1 – Chinese Taipei aim to top group

Few would have predicted it, but Chinese Taipei shook up the standings in Group C as they silenced the home crowd by beating Malaysia 3-2. Meanwhile in Group B, Thailand […]

Few would have predicted it, but Chinese Taipei shook up the standings in Group C as they silenced the home crowd by beating Malaysia 3-2. Meanwhile in Group B, Thailand celebrated a good start to the week with a victory over Hong Kong by the same score.

By Ooi Ee Lyn, Badzine Correspondent live in Kuala Lumpur. Photos: Badmintonphoto (live)

The middle seats in the lower tier of stands behind court 2 – where Malaysia’s first tie of the week took place – became home to a big group of spectators in the evening. Malaysia fielded their strongest lineup to face the understrength Chinese Taipei team in front of the home crowd.

However, Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong (pictured below) who were up first for Malaysia, bowed down before Chinese Taipei’s Macau Open champions, Lee Sheng Mu / Tsai Chia Hsin (pictured above), levelling the head-to-head record between the two pairs. Koo, startled and slightly choked with sobs post-match said, “I don’t know, I didn’t think that our strong points would be that bad today. We used to be strong at the first three shots in our games, but today it turned out to be our weakness. The opponent was very strong at attacking and at the net. Our plans didn’t work and our game was completely shut down.

Losing the opening match for Malaysia on home soil must have been tough for the pair, as they will start to consider the consequences of this slump and the probability of them being kept on the bench in their upcoming match-up against Germany. Tan said, “I’m always open to play as long as we’re given the opportunity. [For the next match] Whoever is more confident will be chosen to play.” An emotional Koo then carried on by saying, “We are aware that the expectations people have on us is beginning to lessen, but until the day that we decide to stop, we will not give up.”

Sonia Cheah, receiving the baton from Koo/Tan then went on court in attempt to prevent Chinese Taipei from hitting their second point. Unfortunately, Tai Tzu Ying (pictured below), crowned Female Star of the Night at the welcoming dinner last night, lived up to her name on court as well as she added another boulder onto the balance to make it 2-0 in favour of Chinese Taipei.

I guess she [Sonia] wasn’t used to the drift here. In fact, I didn’t really run around much today, because most of my points came from the mistakes she made. I know this place well, and I know the wind is strong in this stadium so I’ve already prepared beforehand,” said Tai, who won her second Superseries title at the Malaysia Open here in January. “It’s good to hear the spectators cheering for me despite being in a foreign country.

Malaysia’s hero Lee Chong Wei then stepped up to bring hope to the team. He earned the first point for Malaysia by defeating Chinese Taipei’s world #161 Yang Chih Hsun in straight games that ended in less than half an hour. Lee then commented on the performance of his comrades who went before him, stating, “It’s Sonia’s first time in the Sudirman Cup, and she’s probably feeling more pressure since Koo and Tan lost the first match. I never thought that Koo and Tan would find it so hard today. Currently, there is a 50% chance of winning the women’s doubles, and I hope they will break through.

Dato Lee’s hopes were shattered, as Woon Khe Wei / Vivian Hoo fell to the pressure, losing 17-21, 19-21 to Cheng Wen Hsing / Hsieh Pei Chen to confirm Malaysia’s loss against Chinese Taipei. “We really wanted to earn a point for Malaysia. Before the match, I told Vivian not to be too pressured, but I guess we didn’t manage to do it,” said Woon.

Her opponent, Cheng Wen Hsing, acknowledged this, saying, “I think we won because we were less pressured than our opponents. They must be under more pressure because badminton is like a national sport in Malaysia. Besides, we didn’t want to put the pressure on our juniors by making them decide the fate of our team today.

A consolation victory added a little spirit to the Malaysian squad, as Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying took the baton for the final run of the night and earned a second point for Malaysia by beating Chinese Taipei’s inexperienced pairing of Lu Ching Yao / Lai Chia Wen. As Lee Chong Wei stated earlier, it is still possible for Malaysia to make way into the quarterfinals as long as they beat Germany in the next tie. Chinese Taipei will take on the Germans first, playing tomorrow evening, while the Malaysians rest and prepare for their meeting on Tuesday.

Hong Kong’s fate: upset Korea for a chance to survive

In the other tie of the elite division this evening, Thailand also put out a strong team to meet their opponents. Maneepong Jongjit / Nipitphon Aroonkesorn – Thailand’s second best possible pairing for the Cup – brought good news to the troop with their victory over Hong Kong’s Wong Wai Hong / Chan Yun Lung in the opening match. Passing the baton to newly crowned India Open champion Ratchanok Intanon, Thailand happily took a step closer to beating Hong Kong when the Thai lady silenced Yip Pui Yin in straight games.

However, sharing the same fate as Chinese Taipei, the tables quaked for Thailand as their superman Boonsak Ponsana let the third and deciding point slip from his hands. The Thai had a smooth sail up to the end of the second game, before his fortunes were abruptly twisted at 20-16 as four match points drifted away to Hu Yun (pictured right). Boonsak eventually lost the deciding game despite his best efforts. Retreating backstage, he said, “Thailand’s aim is to be the first in our group and enter the quarter-finals. Our match against Korea will be very hard as they are a strong team, but anything can happen.

Danger struck for Thailand when Duanganong Aroonkesorn / Kunchala Voravichitchaikul failed to improve their head-to-head record against Tse Ying Suet / Poon Lok Yan of Hong Kong, allowing the latter to force a 2-2 tie into the final match of the day. Fortunately, Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam pulled the team back from the edge as they triumphed over Lee Chun Hei / Chau Hoi Wah in the mixed doubles discipline.

Hong Kong, fresh from this 2-3 defeat against Thailand, will have to try their very best to upset Korea tomorrow evening, or they will leave the Sudirman Cup early before even the quarter-finals. Thailand have a chance to recharge and will prepare to put on a magical game on Tuesday, in the hope of toppling Korea to emerge at the top of the group.

Meanwhile in Level 2, Sweden beat USA but failed to get a clean sweep, as Iris Wang and Eva Lee and Paula Lynn Obanana (pictured) slipped two points into USA’s pocket by taking the women’s singles and women’s doubles. As for the third division, Australia lost only a single match, that of the women’s singles to Lithuanian Akvile Stapusaityte, to make their victory against the team 4-1. Vietnam salvaged a clean-sheet against Kazakhstan without yet putting out their ace team to play.

Sunday evening results
Level 1
Chinese Taipei beat Malaysia 3-2
Thailand beat Hong Kong 3-2
Level 2
Sweden beat USA 3-2
Level 3
Australia beat Lithuania 4-1
Vietnam beat Kazakhstan 5-0

Click here for complete Day 1 results

About Ee-Lyn Ooi