MALAYSIA MASTERS 2016 QF – Malaysians masterful

Home shuttlers prevailed in 5 of 6 quarter-finals at the Malaysia Masters in Penang on Friday, where Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying and Tan Kian Meng / Lai […]

Home shuttlers prevailed in 5 of 6 quarter-finals at the Malaysia Masters in Penang on Friday, where Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying and Tan Kian Meng / Lai Pei Jing advance to face each other for a spot in the mixed final and the chance remains for an all-Malaysian affair in men’s singles.

Story and photos by Chee Ying Fan (live in Penang)

It was an exceptional quarter-finals day for the Malaysian team at the Malaysia Masters as all but one pair won on Friday.  In fact, Malaysia is assured of a place in the mixed doubles final and Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin scored another upset, to keep alive a bid for an all-Malaysian men’s singles final.

Tan Kian Meng / Lai Pei Jing brought the first cheer when they beat Japan’s Sonoda/Fukuman.  It will be Lai’s second straight semi-final appearance at this event but this year, her opponent will be her partner from last year, as the new pair will play their first Gold semi-final against 8th-seeded compatriots Chan Peng Soon / Goh Liu Ying (pictured above).

“It is good that our juniors are improving,” said Goh after she and Chan beat Faisal/Aulia of Indonesia.   “Tan/Lai are a strong pair and they have their unique ways to beat their opponents.  We know each other’s playing style well because we train together.  Tomorrow’s match will not be easy.”

Chan/Goh beat the Indonesians 21-13, 21-18 but the second game was very close.  With the crowd’s support, Chan/Goh bounced back from 17-18 down to score four consecutive points and take the win.

The other mixed doubles semi-final will see Hong Kong’s

Qualifiers Chau Hoi Wah / Lee Chun Hei (pictured) take on  new Chinese juggernaut Zheng Siwei and Li Yinhui.  The two eighteen-year-olds added world #11 Shin Baek Cheol / Chae Yoo Jung to their list of victims in their first ever tournament together.

Chau/Lee lost their first game 13-21 to Indonesians Ronald Alaexander / Melati Oktaviani’s attacking play but recovered fast to win the second.  In the third game, they held a 5-point lead at 15-10 but the Indonesian managed to catch up to 13-15.  With the Malaysian crowd supporting Chau/Lee, they widened the deficit and won 21-16.  Chau/Lee thanked the crowd and Lee even bowed to show his appreciation for the support.

Japan’s women’s doubles world #1, Misaki Matsutomo / Ayaka Takahashi were also grateful to the Malaysian crowed when they won a hard fought 3-game match against their team-mates Shizuka Matsuo / Mami Naito.  Matsutomo/Takahashi smiled happily and waved to the crowd after they won and that attracted more applause.

Japan gets into the upset business

Yui Hashimoto (pictured) created one of several singles upsets when she beat 4th seed Bae Yeon Ju in 3 games.  Hashimoto is one of three women’s singles quarter-finalists clustered around the crucial 16th spot in the Race to Rio rankings and every victory can help her Olympic bid.

“It was harder to play in the first game because the shuttle is very fast due to the wind,” Hashimoto said afterward.    “I prefer to play against the wind and managed to win the second game.  In the deciding game, I felt more confident in my game.”

The Japanese shuttler will face Kirsty Gilmour, who continued her fine run in this tournament, beating 8th seed, Thailand’s Busanan.  Busanan asked for medical team to spray her knee in the second game and seemed to be moving a bit slower.   Although the Thai is the seeded shuttler and the 2012 champion, Gilmour is actually slightly ahead in the Rio standings, occupying the 16th spot that Busanan needs to surpass to be a second Thai Olympian in women’s singles.

As expected, Lee Chong Wei (pictured) beat Ajay Jayaram, 21-16, 21-16 but Ajay gave him a run for his money.

“It has been a long time since we have had an all-Malaysian final,” said Lee Chong Wei after his win.  “I hope that Iskandar can win tomorrow.  He is a very determined and hardworking player.”

Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin continued to spring surprises as he beat Hong Kong’s rising star, Ng Ka Long 21-11, 21-15.  He began his campaign by beating Korea’s Son Wan Ho, then followed that with wins over Anthony Ginting and Xue Song.

Former world #1, Koo Kien Keat / Tan Boon Heong kept the Malaysian flag flying in men’s doubles as they beat Hiroyuki Saeki / Ryota Taohata in three games.  Koo/Tan will face top seeds Kim Ki Jung / Kim Sa Rang, whom they never beaten before.  When asked about the reason why they never beat them, Koo joked that he also wants to know and said that they are not comfortable with the Koreans’ game play.

Meanwhile, the evening ended in disappointment for the local crowd when Goh V. Shem / Tan Wee Kiong lost to Japan’s Takeshi Kamura / Keigo Sonoda (pictured).  The Malaysians won the 1st game 22-20 and looked game to win the second but the Japanese pair played an effective attacking game with fast speed and won in 3 games.

More local supporters are expected to show up on Saturday as it is a rare opportunity for Penang fans to watch and support their heroes live.

Click here for complete quarter-final results

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