28 Apr 2006
NATIONAL coach Yap Kim Hock believes that Malaysia will end their 14-year wait and lift the Thomas Cup come May 7.

"All of the players are in high spirits but more importantly, united. They are physically and mentally prepared for the tournament," said Kim Hock at the Aoba Badminton Hall in Sendai yesterday. "All of the players have vowed to give 100 per cent in every match."

The last time Malaysia won the Thomas Cup was in 1992 in Kuala Lumpur where the team, led by Rashid Sidek, beat Indonesia 3-2.

Unlike in 1992, when Malaysia’s main weakness was in the third singles, this Thomas Cup team is a more balanced side.

"The players are of the same standard with those from China, Denmark, South Korea and Indonesia. We are capable of fighting for all five points when meeting these top teams," Kim Hock added.

Malaysia start their campaign against the United States today before completing their Group D fixtures against England on Sunday. Both matches will be held at the Sendai City Gymnasium.

Malaysia’s real test will only start in the quarter-finals where they will either meet 13-time champions Indonesia or Korea.

Throughout this year, Malaysian shuttlers have shown a marked improvement under Kim Hock, Li Mao (singles coach) and Rexy Mainaky (doubles coach), and topped the Thomas Cup qualifiers in India and clinched the Commonwealth Games gold medal in the mixed team event.

Lee Chong Wei and his team-mates also have impressive results in Open tournaments.

Against the United States today, Kim Hock may opt to play either Kuan Beng Hong as third singles or Chew Choon Eng-Boon Heong in the second doubles.

"I will have to discuss with the coaches and players. I will only decide tomorrow (today)," said Kim Hock, who added that he wanted to give the reserve players exposure in the preliminary round.

"We need to build their confidence in case we need them for the second round stage if our first choice shuttlers are injured."