KUALA LUMPUR (11 MAY 2010) – Malaysia Muhd Hafiz Hashim just could not lift his game in the vital point as Japan came from 2-0 down to beat Malaysia 3-2 in their Group B Thomas Cup match.
Following the win tonight, Japan were seeded for the quarter-final draw as group champions while Malaysia were unseeded as the group runners-up.
In the quarter-finals, Malaysia will take on Denmark while China will meet Korea again for a place in the semifinal.
The other quarter-final matches will see Japan taking on Germany while India will meet Indonesia.
“We will be better prepared to face Denmark in the quarter-final. Any team in the quarter-finals are tough opponents. It won’t be easy but we will take heart from the defeat to Japan and go all out to get into the semi-finals. The tournament is into its third day but we were playing only our first match,” said chief coach Rashid Sidek.
“This, to a certain extent did affect our overall performamce although we led 2-0 after the first two matches through Lee Chong Wei in the first singles and the first doubles through Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong.”
Japan coach Keita Masuda said after Chong Wei’s 21-12, 21-13 win over Japanese No 1 Kenichi Tago: “(Lee) Chong Wei was simply too good today."
However, Malaysia failed to ride on their 2-0 lead after Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong won the first doubles with a 21-13, 21-17 win over Noriyasu Hirata-Hirokatsu Hashimoto.
Japan came back strongly to draw level at 2-2 after Sho Sasaki beat Wong Choong Hann in the second singles and Kenichi Hayakawa-Kento Kazuno won the second doubles against Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif 21-15, 21-12.
It was then left to Muhd Hafiz Hashim to deliver the third and winning point but the 2003 All England champion was no match against Shoji Sato who won 21-10, 14-21, 21-18.
Msuda, a former doubles player who last played in the Beijing Olympics in 2008 with Ohtsuka Tadashi where they reached the quarter-finals of the men's doubles, believes Chong Wei was also better prepared to face Tago in the Thomas Cup.
“It was a close battle in the All England final. But today Chong Wei was simply in his class and the vociferous home crowd also gave him the edge,” added Masuda.
Later, Chong Wei told a press conference that he was indeed 'well and better prepared' for this match after studying a video recording of the Japanese’s game which he discussed with coach Datuk Misbun Sidek.
“In the All England final, I was unprepared for Tago. He was a surprise finalist and I did not know his game well. But today, I was well prepared and knew what to do. The big crowd support also drove me on,” said Chong Wei.
Koo Kean Kiet-Tan Boon Heong made it 2-0 for Malaysia when they beat Noriyasu Hirata-Hirokatsu Hashimoto 21-13, 21-17 in 27 minutes.
“I am very satisfied. We were well prepared not only for this match but also for this tournament. First set we played simple but in the second set we played more aggressive and tried some more daring shots,” said Kien Keat.
Boon Heong, however, said it would have been better if the Malaysians had played Nigeria in the first match on Sunday to 'get the feel of the tournament and the environment inside the stadium.'
Veteran Wong Choong Hann failed to deliver the third and winning point for Malaysia when he fell 17-21, 18-21 to Sho Sasaki in the second singles.
"I blame myself for the defeat. This is the first time I played Sasaki. But it has not affected my confidence although I am well aware that my opponents in the coming matches will be much more tougher,” said Choong Hann
As for Hafiz, he said: “I made unforced errors to hand the Japanese the win. The pressure was on me to deliver with the score tied at 2-2. But I promise to redeem myself in the next match.
“There is still another chance for us to prove our worth and stay in contention.”