Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying got the key win that propelled Malaysia to a lucrative first Axiata Cup victory. They beat Thailand 3-1.
By Don Hearn, Badzine Correspondent. Photos: Courtesy of the Axiata Cup (live)
When the 2013 Axiata Cup semi-finals finished on Saturday, the key match-up might have appeared to be the men’s singles rematch between Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk and his preliminary round victim Liew Daren. However, everything changed when world #1 Lee Chong Wei threw his hat in the ring for his Malaysian team, just a day after the birth of his son Kingston.
It was true that the Malaysians already had higher-ranking competitors in three disciplines. However, Chan/Goh had lost all three times to the Thais last year and Thailand also had every reason to hope for another upset of Liew from the in-form Tanongsak as well. With the addition of Lee Chong Wei, it became an uphill battle for the visiting Thai team, as they now needed their mixed doubles to step up and assure them of at least a second match won so that they could make the victory depend on total games or even points won.
As it turned out, Ratchanok Intanon (pictured) was at least able to get Thailand off to a winning start. She refused to succumb to the nerves that had troubled Tai Tzu Ying in her matches against Malaysia’s Sonia Cheah. Ratchanok just stayed one step ahead of the Malaysian and kept the boisterous crowd from getting too much to exalt in.
“The crowd was definitely behind Sonia, but this atmosphere is quite normal to me. I came here fully prepared,” said Ratchanok afterward.
“I had only one thing of my mind and that was to win a point for my team.”
In Surabaya, Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying (pictured below) had finally snapped a 3-match losing streak against Thailand’s Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam. With the world’s #1 and #2 looming in the two men’s events, Thailand had to consider the mixed doubles a must-win situation.
At the start, Sudket and Saralee kept it close with their deception and court coverage. However, Goh kept control of the net and the Malaysians did the much better job of forcing the attacking opportunities and they opened up the first game and kept the edge in the second to win in two straight games.
“We were really on form today,” said Chan Peng Soon. “We hope to find this form and be consistent in future tournaments as well.”
“Our form has dropped a little of late, but today was one of our best matches,” added Goh Liu Ying.
Outclassed by the world’s best
Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk had said that his game plan, which was to stay on the offensive and served him so well against Sugiarto in the semi-finals, was one he was going to stick to whether it was Liew Daren or Lee Chong Wei (pictured) he had to face in the final. He did have some success putting the shuttle down in the second game and keeping the score close but Lee had wrong-footed him so much in the first that he was unable to contribute even a game toward Thailand’s cause.
“I didn’t plan to play as my son Kingston was just born but I wanted to help my country earn the top prize,” Lee Chong Wei explained.
“The coaches asked me last night and I thought about it and decided yes, helping the country win this tournament would be good as we haven’t won a mixed team title apart from the Commonwealth Games [Melbourne 2006 and New Delhi 2010]. We also have never won a mixed team title on Malaysian soil so that was a deciding factor as well.
“I’m happy to have played my part and wish to thank my team-mates and fans for the support.”
Down by two matches, Thailand found themselves in the position they had backed Indonesia into on Saturday. Dropping even one game in the men’s doubles would hand the title to Malaysia but for their scratch pairing of singles ace Boonsak Ponsana and mixed specialist Songphon Anugritayawon, winning at all was a daunting task against current world #2 pair Koo/Tan.
True to expectations, Koo and Tan were able to pick apart their less seasoned opponents and they took the important first game with little effort. It took them several match points but they eventually sealed the 3-1 match score in favour of the home team.
“It was very clear today, that the inclusion of (Datuk Lee) Chong Wei, boosted the confidence of the team, and even our mixed pair won in straight games. That was a real surprise,” said Malaysian coach Rashid Sidek.
“We know that there are other countries who are stronger in the mixed team event, but today we can say we are also able to win a mixed team event.”
Singles players can win the doubles points
In the playoff for 3rd place, Indonesia went down to the Asia All Stars, who again got into the driver’s seat after wins by singles aces Lee Hyun Il and Tai Tzu Ying. The surprise clincher, though, came in the men’s doubles. Again needing to win without dropping a game, the Indonesians were unable to come through and Ahsan/Setiawan lost the first game 12-21 to scratch Chinese pairing Bao Chunlai / Zheng Bo (pictured) before Ahsan withdrew with a back injury.
“It is a privilege to have been invited to play in the Axiata Cup. Our teamwork was great even though there was some language barrier,” said Lee Hyun Il. “I enjoyed my time in this tournament. I had team-mates who were my rivals before but we played as a team in this event.”
Axiata Cup Final Results
Malaysia 3, Thailand 1
WS: Sonia Cheah (MAS) lost to Ratchanok Intanon (THA) 16-21, 17-21
XD: Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (MAS) beat Sudket Prapakamol / Saralee Thoungthongkam (THA) 21-16, 21-15
MS: Lee Chong Wei (MAS) beat Tanongsak Saensomboonsuk (THA) 21-12, 21-18
MD: Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong (MAS) beat Boonsak Ponsana / Songphon Anugritayawon (THA) 21-10, 21-17
3rd place playoff: Asia All Stars 3, Indonesia 1
WS: Tai Tzu Ying (TPE) beat Lindaweni Fanetri (INA) 21-18, 22-20
MS: Lee Hyun Il (KOR) beat Tommy Sugiarto (INA) 21-19, 16-21, 21-6
XD: Ashwini Ponnappa / Tarun Kona (IND) lost to Muhammed Rijal / Debby Susanto (INA) 21-16, 16-21, 15-21
MD: Bao Chunlai / Zheng Bo (CHN) beat Hendra Setiawan Mohammed Ahsan (INA) 21-12, [ret]
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