VETERANS Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah and Chan Chong Ming-Chew Choon Eng advanced to the quarter-finals of the Malaysian Open badminton championships but the celebrations were muted following the shocking exit of defending champions Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong at the Putra Stadium in Bukit Jalil last night.
The signs were already there when the world number one pair struggled to beat third-ranked Indonesians Hendra Gunawan-Joko Riyadi in their opening match on Wednesday.
And their worst fears came true when they crashed 19-21, 21-18, 16-21 to former world champions Lars Paaske-Jonas Rasmussen of Denmark in the second round.
This is the second successive time that they have failed to make it past the early rounds of a Super Series tournament. Kien Keat-Boon Heong lost to Taiwan’s Tsai Chia-hsin-Hu Chung-shien in the second round of the China Open last November.
This time, Boon Heong proved to be the weak link and it was no surprise to see the Danish pair going on to claim victory in 59 minutes.
Malaysia's Tan Boon Heong (front) and Koo Kien Keat return a shot from Denmark's Lars Paaske and Jonas Rasmussen during Malaysia Open badminton tournament in Kuala Lumpur January 17, 2008.
Unbelievable: Denmark's Lars Paaske-Jonas Rasmussen celebrate their win over Malaysia's Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong during the second round of the Malaysian Open. The Danish pair won 21-19, 18-21, 21-16.
Kien Keat had to run all over the court to do most of the work and the Danish pair, world champions in 2003, capitalised on it by targeting Boon Heong in the rubber game.
Boon Heong committed numerous unforced errors in the rubber game to allow the veteran Danish pair to come back from 11-14 down and seal victory.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong had beaten the Danish pair twice before and yesterday’s defeat in their home Open was painful indeed, especially when they had high hopes of making a good start to their campaign for the year.
Despite the unexpected early defeat, doubles coach Rexy Mainaky chose not to blast the Malaysian pair for their poor display, saying “they are still the main hope for the Beijing Olympics in August”.
Denmark's Lars Paaske (L) returns a shot from Malaysia's Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong as his teammate Jonas Rasmussen looks on during Malaysia Open badminton tournament in Kuala Lumpur January 17, 2008.
“This defeat in the Malaysian Open should not be used as the only yardstick to judge them.
“Our priority is still the Olympics and I believe they are good for the title there,” said Rexy, who also pleaded for support for the pair.
“We have to understand that no athlete can stay on the winning trail all the time. The pair have been performing well for some time and it’s more important for them to learn from this and come back stronger.”
Malaysia’s hopes now rest on the shoulders of Tan Fook-Wan Wah and Chong Ming-Choon Eng.
Tan Fook-Wan Wah, winners in 2004, overcame fellow Malaysians Tan Bin Shen-Ong Soon Hock 19-21, 21-18, 21-18 and will face Paaske-Rasmussen next.
Chong Ming-Choon Eng, who had to play their way from the qualifying rounds, continued with their impressive run by reaching the last eight when they scored a 21-13, 13-21, 21-14 win over world No 26 Chia-hsin-Chung-shien.