KUALA LUMPUR, May 11 — The host Malaysian team, a hot candidate for the Thomas Cup, was stunned in its first appearance here Tuesday, losing to Japan 3-2 while the reigning champion China secured a top position in Group A with a 4-1 win against South Korea.
Malaysia’s third single Muhd Hafiz Hashim just failed to lift his game in the vital point as Japan came from 2-0 down to beat the host, who were under great pressure of winning the men’s team title for the first time in 18 years.
Lee Chong Wei, world’s top shuttler, marked a fantastic opener for Malaysia as he eased past Japan’s No. 1 player Kenichi Tago 21- 12, 21-13 before the first doubles Koo Kien Keat/Tan Boon Heong lifted the host to a 2-0 lead by beating Noriyasu Hirata/Hirokatsu Hashimoto 21-13, 21-17.
However, Japan came back strongly to draw level at 2-2 after Sho Sasaki beat Wong Choong Hann in the second singles and Kenichi Hayakawa/Kento Kazuno won the second doubles match against Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari/Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif 21-15, 21-12.
Muhd Hafiz Hashim, the 2003 All England champion, then failed to deliver the winning point before the home crowd as he was upset by Shoji Sato 21-10, 14-21, 21-18.
Following the win, Japan was seeded for the quarterfinal draw as group champions while Malaysia were unseeded as the runners-up. According to the draw made later the day, Malaysia will take on Denmark while China will meet South Korea again just following their group match Tuesday for a place in the semifinals.
The Olympic and world champion Lin Dan opened the victory for the reigning champion as he edged out South Korean Park Sung Hwan 21-18, 25-23 in the first singles match, followed by the 2006 world champion double Cai Yun/Fu Haifeng, who upset South Korea’s top doubles player Jung Jae Sung and his new partner Shin Baek Cheol in 26 minutes, 21-11, 21-12.
Chen Jin, the world’s third-ranked singles, then secured the victory and a top group position for China with a straight win against South Korea’s youngster Shon Wan Ho 21-14, 21-13.
In the Uber Cup competitions, the Chinese women topped the group without conceding a single set while Japan and Indonesia both powered into the quarterfinals with 5-0 victories.