TheStar
PETALING JAYA: The heat is on veteran badminton doubles player Choong Tan Fook in the race for qualification to the World Championships, which will be held in Los Angeles in August.

The 29-year-old Tan Fook is in danger of missing the cut for the first time since 1997.

His partnership with Chew Choon Eng cannot afford another early exit in the Thai Open, which begins in Bangkok today.

In two international tournaments recently, they failed to clear the early rounds.

They were beaten by the Indonesian pair of Markis Kidho-Hendra Setiawan in the third round of the German Open and were ousted in the second round of the All-England by China's Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun, who went on to win the title.

Tan Fook-Choon Eng did not play in the Swiss Open.

Tan Fook-Choon Eng are now ranked 32nd in the world and needs to get among the top 24 by May to be considered for the world championships.

Malaysia can send a maximum of three pairs if all of them are among the top 24. The Japan Open next week and Sudirman Cup (world mixed team championships) in Beijing from May 10 to 15 are the last two major tournaments to offer ranking points.

And the task has been set out for Tan Fook in the remaining Open competitions.

“My target is to win one title this year. I have not given up hope even though we lost in the early rounds in recent tournaments,” said Tan Fook in a telephone interview from Bangkok yesterday.

“My priority now is to improve on our world rankings. I still want to feature in the World Championships.”

National chief coach Yap Kim Hock has also kept his options open for Tan Fook's former partner Lee Wan Wah to feature in the world meet.

However, it will only materialise if Wan Wah-Tan Fook do not drop out of the top 24 ranking. They are now at number 17.

“Things are still not certain. At the moment, I just have to make the best out of what I have with Choon Eng,” said Tan Fook, who made his world championships debut with Wan Wah in Glasgow in 1997.

Tan Fook-Choon Eng can expect the going to be tough in the Thai Open.

They open their campaign against Danes Rasmus Andersen-Michael Lamp and can expect to play against teammates Tan Bin Shen-Ong Soon Hock in the second round.

Also in their half of the draw are Thailand's number two Sudket Prapakamol-Patapol Ngernsrisuk and fellow Malaysians Chan Chong-Ming-Koo Kien Keat.

Malaysia are at full force for their doubles challenge in the Thailand Open. The other pairs in the fray are Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Lin Woon Fui, Gan Teik Chai-Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif, Ng Kean Kok-Hong Chieng Hun and world junior champions Hoon Thien How-Tan Boon Heong.