Tuesday, May 21, 2019
TEXT BY DEV SUKUMAR | BADMINTONPHOTO
Malaysia dodged India’s challenge today at the TOTAL BWF Sudirman Cup 2019 and sit pretty in their quest for a quarterfinals place.
The Malaysians can afford to feel secure about qualifying from Group 1D, for India are now faced with the difficult task of beating China in the last group clash. An Indian upset would result in the three teams being equal on points, and the group qualifiers to be decided on countback.
Chow Mei Kuan and Lee Meng Yean clinched the tie for Malaysia beating Ashwini Ponnappa/Sikki Reddy 21-11 21-19 in the fifth match after the teams were 2-all.
Match of the Session
The Indians scored the psychological first blow, with Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Ashwini Ponnappa – in their first match this season – coming through a tense end game against Goh Soon Huat and Shevon Jemie Lai.
Rankireddy was in fine fettle – not only did he put away anything that was in hitting range, he showed finesse in placement and angles to have the Malaysians constantly on edge. The Indians held a narrow lead in the third before the Malaysians caught up and had two opportunities to close it out, but Rankireddy and Ponnappa were up to the task, and they denied their opponents on both occasions before nailing victory at 16-21 21-17 24-22.
India surprisingly fielded Sameer Verma instead of the higher-ranked Kidambi Srikanth against Lee Zii Jia, and the move backfired, with Lee storming through, 21-13 21-15. Pusarla V Sindhu expectedly gave India the lead once again, outclassing Goh Jin Wei 21-12 21-8.
Malaysia threw in a surprise for the men’s doubles, fielding scratch pair Aaron Chia and Teo Ee Yi.
The move nearly worked against them, for Sumeeth Reddy and Manu Attri duelled on level terms. The Malaysians shook off the persistent Indians at the death and brought their team level at 2-all.
Finally, Chow and Lee swung it for Malaysia, overcoming a big deficit in the second game to capture the tie, 21-11 21-19.
“It’s quite a big win,” said Lee Meng Yean. “We fought well as a team. It was 2-all and important to win and our coach told us to enjoy our match.”
“It wasn’t easy; Sameer (Verma) is a rally player, and I tried very hard. Honestly, before the match I felt pressure because we expected our mixed doubles to win. But this is a team event and I had to take responsibility and win and I’m proud of it.” – Lee Zii Jia, after neutralising India’s 1-0 lead.
Fightback by Vietnam, Ireland
Vietnam recovered from 0-2 down against USA in Group 2A. Pham Cao Cuong (women’s singles), Dinh Thi Phuong Hong /Vu Thi Trang (women’s doubles) and Do Tuan Duc /Pham Hong Nam (men’s doubles) helped Vietnam to victory after Howard Shu/Paula Lynn Obanana and Iris Wang had given USA the lead.
Ireland too fought off a 0-2 deficit to beat New Zealand 3-2 in Group 3A.
Nhat Nguyen came to Ireland’s rescue, clinching the men’s singles before Rachael Darragh/Chloe Magee (women’s doubles) made it 2-all. Nguyen then combined with Sam Magee to complete the rescue act as the Ireland duo beat Manota/Dacmen Wong 21-17 21-13.
Nepal gave a good account of themselves against Australia, going down 2-3 in Group 3A. In Group 4A, Kazakhstan beat Greenland 4-1.