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    Post Umpire erred in decision to penalise Wan Wah in doubles final

    PETALING JAYA: Jane Hancock. The doubles pair of Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah and ardent Malaysian badminton fans will remember this English umpire for a long, long time.

    It was a disputable call that she made when the Malaysians were leading in the crucial stage of the second game that marred what could have been a brilliant All-England men's doubles final at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham on Sunday.

    Tan Fook-Wan Wah had looked good to score their biggest career win in the match against Denmark's Jens Eriksen-Martin Lundgaard Hansen.

    The world number six ranked Malaysian veterans had won the first game at 15-9. They were leading 13-11 in the second game when Hancock made the decision to award the Danes a point even though Wan Wah was not ready to receive the second serve.

    Wah Wah disputed the call and appealed for the intervention of the tournament referee. But the umpire turned it down and in the process flashed the yellow card at Wan Wah.

    The Malaysians never recovered from the decision against them and went on to lose the game at 13-15 and the decider, meekly, at 3-15.

    Danish Jens Eriksen (second from left) and Martin Lundgaard Hansen celebrate on the podium after winning the All-England men's doubles final as Malaysia's Choong Tan Fook (second from right) and Lee Wan Wah look on at the National indoor Arena in Birmingham on Sunday. -- AFPpic
    The victory brought much joy to Eriksen-Lundgaard Hansen. The world number four had ended an 11-year men's doubles title drought for Denmark. But they would definitely have preferred to win the title in a contest minus the controversial decision by Hancock.

    At the post-match press conference, the 32-year-old Lundgaard Hansen said: “He (Wan Wah) was not ready ... I would get just as angry as he did. I can understand his frustration.

    “I joked with Wan Wah on the way up to the press room that the umpire had better not be in Malaysia for a holiday anytime soon.”

    Said the 35-year-old Eriksen: “It wasn't the turning point for us. It was the turning point for them.”

    For Tan Fook-Wan Wah, they had come agonisingly close to becoming the first Malaysians to win the men's doubles title since the success of Razif-Jalani Sidek in 1982.

    The 29-year-old Wan Wah said that their game fell apart after the controversial decision by the umpire but he chose not to use it as an excuse for their failure.

    “I wasn't ready. My racquet wasn't up. I disputed her decision to give the Danes a point. But she told me that I did it a few times before,” said Wan Wah in a telephone interview from Birmingham.

    “I can't really say that it was the decisive point of the match. They made mistakes and we made mistakes ... and the umpire made a mistake.

    “The umpire's decision certainly gave our opponents a boost. We tried to make a comeback but got nervous and made all the mistakes in the deciding game. Looking back, we have wasted a good chance to win the All-England title for Malaysia.”

    En route to the final, Tan Fook and Wan Wah eliminated world champions Lars Paaske-Jonas Rasmussen of Denmark in the quarter-finals and ousted China's Cai Yun-Fu Haifeng in the semi-finals.

    Wan Wah added that they would look forward to upcoming tournaments with optimism, including the Athens Olympics in August.

    “We will return home and work on some of our weaknesses. We will be playing in the Korean Open (March 30-April 4) and Japan Open (April 6-11) before two big assignments – the Thomas Cup Finals (May 7-16) and the Olympic Games (Aug 13-29),” he said.

    And one of the areas they definitely have to work on is their mental strength. It was the lack of it that led to their defeat in the All-England final.
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