KUALA LUMPUR: Liew Daren and Mohd Arif Abdul Latif are in danger of losing their places in the Thomas Cup squad for the Finals in Wuhan in May.
The back-up shuttlers did not get a very favourable evaluation when the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) coaching and training committee, headed by chairman Ng Chin Chai, met yesterday to review the performance of the team, who assured a ticket for the Finals by reaching the semi-finals at the Asian Zone qualfiers in Macau.
To make matters worse, Daren and Arif, who were the first and second seeds in the ongoing Selangor Open, crashed out in the third round and quarter-finals respectively at Stadium Juara in Bukit Kiara yesterday.
Daren went down 19-21, 13-21 to Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayup while Arif lost 12-21, 21-15, 22-24 to Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin.
However, Azriyn’s gallant run came to an end when he went down fighting before losing 21-19, 14-21, 15-21 to Chong Wei Feng.
Former Asian Junior runner-up Iskandar continued his fine form to reach his first Open final with another fantastic 11-21, 21-18, 21-19 win over his senior Chan Kwong Beng.
The lesser known Azriyn and Iskandar are currently groomed by Hendrawan in the back-up team.
At the qualifiers in Macau, Daren and Arif did not win any matches on merit. Daren received a walkover from Simon Santoso in the 2-3 defeat to Indonesia in the semi-finals.
Chin Chai admitted that the review exposed the men’s singles vulnerability.
”We are quite happy with the men’s doubles but the singles could have been better,” said Chin Chai.
Besides Daren and Arif, the others in the team were Lee Chong Wei, Mohd Hafiz Hashim, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, Goh V Shem-Lim Khim Wah and Hoon Thien How-Teo Kok Siang.
“Hafiz is part of our plan for the coming Finals but his physical condition needs to be improved. We have asked him to join the national team in training after the Europe tournaments (German Open, All-England and Swiss Open),” he said.
“The coaches reported that Daren played well and gave a good fight. But we are not only looking at fighting spirit, we want him to start winning matches. He too must improve his physical condition.
“However, all agreed that Arif isn’t up to the mark. He too is not in good shape. The NSI (National Sports Institute) will give more focus to physical training for the these players.”
Chin Chai said the final Thomas Cup squad of four singles and six doubles would be announced by the end of April with only Chong Wei, Hafiz, Kien Keat-Boon Heong and V Shem-Khim Wah assured of their places.
”We will name the best team available. It could also be players from outside the BAM fold,” he said.
When asked whether Asian and world junior champion Zulfadli Zulkifli of KLRC would be invited to join the training squad, Chin Chai said: “We don’t have any special training programme for the Thomas Cup Finals as yet, but the door is open to Zulfadli if he wants to join us.”
Zulfadli missed the opportunity to impress the selectors when he retired while trailing 21-11, 5-21, 12-16 to Lim Fang Yang.
Said the 18-year-old Zulfadli: “The area below my knee was swollen and I had a back problem too. I believe this is due to the treatment I received from a masseur on the eve of the tournament.
“He used a traditional Chinese treatment which didn’t go well with me. It affected my game and I had to stop playing. In fact, I have withdrawn from next week’s German Open as well,” he said.
On whether he would join BAM if he was called up, Zulfadli said: “I would like to know the purpose of the invitation. I will answer the call if it is for the Thomas Cup Finals but I will have to consult my father and my club, KLRC, first.”
(BAM players unless stated)
Third round: Nur Mohd Azriyn Ayup bt Liew Daren 21-19, 21-13; Lim Fang Yang bt Zulfadli Zulkifli (Kul) 11-21, 21-5, 16-12 (rtd); Chong Wei Feng bt Mohd Hashim (Sel) 21-9, 21-10; Misbun Ramdan Misbun bt Goh Giap Chin 21-17, 21-13; Goh Soon Huat bt Loh Wei Shen 21-15, 21-12; Chan Kwong Beng bt Ahmadi Abdul Saman (Sel) 21-10, 21-8; Iskandar Zulkarnain Zainuddin bt K. Yogendran (Sel) 21-10, 19-21, 21-11; Mohd Arif Abdul Latif bt Kuan Kam Chung (Kul) 21-17, 21-17.
Quarter-finals: Azriyn bt Fang Yang 21-15, 21-17; Wei Feng bt Misbun 21-13, 21-19; Kwong Beng bt Soon Huat 21-12, 21-19; Iskandar bt Arif 21-12, 15-21, 24-22.
Semi-finals: Iskandar bt Kwong Beng 11-21, 21-18, 21-19; Wei Feng bt Azriyn 19-21, 21-14, 21-15.
Quarter-finals: Mak Hee Chun-Tan Wee Kiong bt Mohd Lutfi Zaim Abdul Khalid-Vountus Indra Mawan 21-16, 22-20;
Chan Peng Soon-Tan Boon Heong bt Chooi Kah Ming-Ow Yao Han 21-19, 21-15; Nelson Heg Wei Kiat-Teo Ee Yi bt Mohd Razif Abdul Rahman-Mohd Razif Latif 25-23, 21-15; Koo Kien Keat-Lim Khim Wah bt Chan Chong Ming-Lee Wan Wah 21-12, 21-18.
Semi-finals: Kien Keat-Khim Wah bt Wei Kiat-Ee Yi 21-8, 21-13; Hee Chun-Wee Kiong bt Peng Soon-Boon Heong 21-19, 17-21, 21-14.
Quarter-finals: Tee Jing Yi bt Lim Yin Fun 21-15, 21-16; Sannatasah Saniru bt Florah Ng 21-13, 21-13; Sonia Cheah bt Julia Wong (Armed Forces) 21-13, 21-15; Lydia Cheah bt Yang Li Lian 16-21, 21-12, 21-14.
Semi-finals: Jing Yi bt Sannatasah 21-3, 22-20; Lydia bt Sonia 21-12, 21-14.
Quarter-finals: Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean bt Florah Ng-Yang Li Lian 21-12, 21-9; Sannatasah Saniru-Tee Jing Yi bt Haw Chiou Hwee-Julia Wong (Joh-Armed Forces) 21-13, 21-13; Vivian Hoo-Won Khe Wei bt Amelia Alicia Anscelly-Soong Fie Cho 21-17, 22-20.
Semi-finals: Vivian-Khe Wei bt Sannatasah-Jing Yi 21-16, 21-19; Mei Kuan-Meng Yean bt Sin Er-Shevon 21-14, 21-15.
Quarter-finals: Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying bt Low Juan Shen-Lee Meng Yean 21-15, 21-17; Mohd Razif Latif-Amelia Alicia Anscelly (Nse-Sab) bt Tan Wee Tat-Chow Mei Kuan 21-19, 19-21, 21-15; Lee Chong Wei-Vivian Hoo bt Ong Jian Guo-Lim Yin Loo 23-21, 21-14; Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif-Nairul Suhada Abdul Latif (Nse) bt Tan Aik Quan-Lai Pei Jing 21-18, 22-20.
Semi-finals: Peng Soon-Liu Ying bt Razif-Amelia 21-16, 19-21, 21-14; Chong Wei-Vivian bt Zakry-Nairul 21-11, 21-19.