Key players to watch out from Malaysia in Sudirman Cup 2023
The Malaysians have two world-beater pairs in the men’s doubles category.
Malaysia have announced their squad for the upcoming Sudirman Cup 2023. The squad is the right mix of talented youngsters, experienced veterans and players in their prime. From the Olympics to World Championships medalists, the Malaysian badminton team for the Sudirman Cup 2023 has it all.
For the uninitiated, Sudirman Cup is the World Cup of badminton for mixed-team events. Unlike the Thomas and the Uber Cup, wherein only men and women get to represent their country in the respective World Cups, Sudirman Cup is the World Cup wherein mixed teams participate.
The format of the Sudirman Cup is pretty simple – 16 teams divided into four groups, each playing once against the other three teams. The top two teams from each group qualify for the quarter-finals. China are the reigning Sudirman Cup champions, and it wouldn’t be wrong to bet on them retaining their title.
Malaysia lost to Japan in the semi-finals of the Sudirman Cup 2021, winning the bronze medal. The only other time the Malaysian badminton team returned from the Sudirman Cup with a medal was in 2009 when they also won a bronze medal.
We look at the three key players for Malaysia at the Sudirman Cup 2023:
Lee Zii Jia
Ever since breaking into the top five of the BWF men’s singles rankings in the final week of May 2022, Lee Zii Jia stayed in it until the first week of May 2023. And while he may have slipped into the rankings, he has still reached the semi-finals of the All England Open Badminton Championships 2023 and the Swiss Open 2023.
A temporary slip in form by the Malaysian that has seen him bow out of many tournaments in 2023 in the earlier stages won’t keep us from having him in the list of the top three key players for the Malaysian badminton team at the Sudirman Cup 2023. In the group stages of the tournament, his two toughest competitions might be against Taipei’s Chou Tien Chen and India’s HS Prannoy.
Both Chou Tien Chen and HS Prannoy have been struggling for form and consistency in the 2023 circuit like the Malaysian badminton player, so it would not surprise us to see Lee Zii Jia win all his games in the group stage.
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Tan Pearly/Thinaah Muralitharan
The case of the women’s doubles duo of Tan Pearly and Thinaah Muralitharan is not very different from Lee Zii Jia’s. Tan Pearly and Thinaah Muralitharan started the year on an unbelievably good run of form, reaching the semi-finals of the Indian Open (BWF Super 750 event), Indonesia Masters (BWF Super 500 event) and the German Open (BWF Super 300 event).
However, their purple patch saw an end since then, and they have participated in only two tournaments in the last two months, giving the Badminton Asia Championships 2023 a skip. The Malaysian badminton women’s doubles duo has, thus, seen a slip in the world rankings, falling outside of the top 10. Malaysia’s best bet in the women’s doubles category, the duo will hope to be at their best in the Sudirman Cup 2023.
Their two closest competitions in the group stages will be India’s Treesa Joly/Gayatri Gopichand and Chinese Taipei’s Lee Chia Hsin/Teng Chun Hsun – two opponents they should be getting the better of even if the game against the Indians can be tricky.
Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik
Men’s doubles, and in general, the doubles category, is the area of expertise of the Malaysian badminton team. Malaysia is known for producing more elite doubles talents than singles, except for the great three-time Olympics medalist Lee Chong Wei. And Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik are one of the best ones to have come from the Malaysian badminton factory in a long time.
Already an Olympics medalist, the World No. 3 pair has had a quieter 2023 as per their standards. However, if there’s any team that can afford not to be at their best before getting into big competitions, it’s this pair. The Malaysian pair is known for coming clutch in the biggest tournaments of the circuit. In 2022, they won the BWF World Championships, finished second in the Badminton Asia Championships and won all their games at the Thomas Cup 2022.
Not just that, they also had several semi-finals or better finishes in the top tournaments of the 2022 circuit. Aaron Chia and Soh Wooi Yik’s deputies are World No. 8 and Badminton Asia Champions 2023 silver medalists Ong Yew Sin and Teo Ee Yi, a team fully capable of beating any top side in the world on their day.
The Tokyo medalists will likely face tough competition from India’s rising duo of Chirag Shetty/Satwiksairaj Rankireddy and Chinese Taipei’s Lee Yan/Wang Chi Lin. On paper, the Malaysians will start as favourites against them.
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