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02-19-2004, 10:09 PM #1
Men’s singles players seal team’s place in Thomas Cup Finals
BY RAJES PAUL
KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia booked their place in the Thomas Cup Finals in Jakarta when they beat Hong Kong 4-1 in their final Group B tie of the Asian Zone qualifying tournament at the Kuala Lumpur Badminton Stadium yesterday. And they sealed victory in the first three singles.
Fears that the men's singles players could concede points to Hong Kong proved unfounded as world number four Wong Choong Hann set the ball rolling by beating Ng Wei yet again. Roslin Hashim delivered the next point, beating Agus Hariyanto.
Young debutant Lee Chong Wei then turned hero, overcoming his nerves to win the match that had been most at risk. He beat Wiratama Yohan Hadikusumo – younger brother of Indonesian Olympic champion Alan Budi Kusuma – in three games, 15-10, 13-15, 15-4, in 70 minutes.
In tomorrow’s semi-finals, Malaysia will face South Korea, who topped Group A after beating India 5-0. China, from Group D and Japan from Group C are the other teams in the semi-finals.
The 22-year-old Chong Wei sounded confident afterwards. “I could have won the match in straight games. I was leading 11-7 (in the second) but was in rush to win it. I threw away points with simple mistakes. Yohan took advantage,” he said.
WINNING STYLES: Roslin Hashim acknowledges the cheers after his victory over Agus Hariyanto while Lee Chong Wei clenches his fist after clinching the winning point by beating Wiratama Yohan Hadikusumo in the third singles. - STARpic by S.S. Kanesan
“But, certainly, playing in this kind of environment is very different. There was a huge crowd, the sound was deafening and there was a lot of pressure. But I am glad I was able to pull it off. This is a valuable experience for me and I hope to play better and better,” he added.
National singles chief coach Misbun Sidek was delighted with the performances of the players.
“Choong Hann certainly gave a good display to boost the team's confidence. Roslin was able to rise to the occasion. And for Chong Wei, he has lived up to my expectation. I hope this will be a good start for him,” said Misbun.
Choong Hann drew first blood for Malaysia with a superb performance, racing to seven points in a row, much to the delight of the packed 2,000-capacity stadium.
But the young Ng Wei recovered to level at 9-9.
“That was the most crucial time for me. He was gaining confidence and I had to break his rhythm. Fortunately, I got back on track,” said the 27-year-old Choong Hann, who won it 15-9, 15-3.
Roslin was on fire, too, in his 15-12, 15-3 triumph over Agus.
“I knew it would be tough. I took the lead at 13-7 but he was not giving up easily. But I managed to hang on. The second was much easier. This is certainly a good start for our team,” said Roslin.
The first of the dead doubles turned out to be surprisingly competitive. After winning the first game at 15-8, Choong Tan Fook and Lee Wan Wah were in for a surprise as Liu Kwok Wa-Albertus Susanto Nyoto fought back to win with identical 15-13, 15-13 victories in the next two games.
Hong Kong conceded a walkover in the second doubles.
Misbun is now looking to the semi-finals. “Today, we have reached our main target, that is to qualify for the Finals. Now, we have to get ready for the tie against South Korea in the semi-finals. I do not want the team to take it easy as we plan to give the Koreans a tough time.
“It will not be easy but if our boys continue with this kind of performances, we can expect more good news,” he said.
02-19-2004, 10:15 PM #2
MALAYSIA, powered by brilliant performances from their singles players, clinched their place in the Thomas Cup finals when they took an unassailable 3-0 lead (at Press time) over Hong Kong at the KLBA Stadium in Cheras yesterday.
Malaysia were expected to be pushed by Hong Kong but except for Johan Hadi Kusuma who took Lee Chong Wei to three games, the hosts were never threatened.
Wong Choong Hann gave Malaysia the expected lead when he beat Ng Wei 15-9, 15-3 in 37 minutes.
Roslin Hashim, playing the second singles, struggled in the first game but recovered well to beat Hariyanto Agus 15-12, 15-3.
Chong Wei then delivered the winning point but was forced to work hard for his 15-10, 13-15, 15-4 win over Johan Hadi which took 70 minutes but secured Malaysia’s berth in the final round.
National singles coach Misbun Sidek said his charges felt minimal pressure and that helped them to produce a fine performance.
"There was no pressure on our players even though it was a crucial tie. My only worry was that they might take things too easy." said Misbun.
"Choong Hann gave and outstanding performance while Roslin was in control although Agus put on some resistance in the first game.
"As for Chong Wei, it was his first Thomas Cup campaign and was desperate to secure the win. He should improve with every match"
Choong Hann. looking extremely confident, raced to a 7-1 lead but in his haste for a quick kill, faltered a little and his progress was checked by Ng Wei.
Ng Wei allowed Choong Hann to continue attacking in the hope of tiring the Malaysian and it nearly paid off.
Choong Hann pulled ahead 9-5 but started losing grip on the match as Ng Wei levelled the score at 9-9.
However, Choong Hann regained service and changed his strategy. He opted to rally and that broke Ng Wei's rhythm, which allowed the Malaysian to wrap up the first game 15-9. Choong Hann, in control, varied his pace in the second game and easily won 15-3.
"I was well aware that a victory from me was vital to lift the team’s morale and I am glad that to have provided the advantage," said a beaming Choong Hann.
"I went too fast at the beginning and Ng Wei read my game. I decided to rally with him and that caught him by surprise.
"If I can keep varying my game, I should be able to do well in the semi-finals."
Malaysia take on second seeds South Korea, who defeated India 5-0, in tomorrow’s semi-finals and Misbun expects the tie to be evenly matched.
"We have beaten them in three friendly matches here last year and they will be determined to topple us this time," said Misbun.
"On paper, they have the advantage but I still rate it a 50-50."
RESULTS — Thomas Cup Group B: Malaysia 3 Hong Kong 0 (Wong Choong Hann bt Ng Wei 15-9, 15-3; Roslin Hashim bt Agus Haryanto 15-12, 15-3; Lee Chong Wei bt Johan Hadi Kusuma 15-10, 13-15, 15-4).
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