By : K.M. Boopathy
NATIONAL chief coach Yap Kim Hock was tight-lipped on the national shuttlers' title hopes in the All England Championships in Birmingham which begins on Tuesday, but said Malaysia will be treating the tournament very seriously.
World No 3 doubles pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong are the doubles defending champions and Kim Hock said there will be an overall improvement in performance and results this year.
Kim Hock said it would be nice if Kien Keat-Boon Heong could retain the title, but also urged the others to put their best foot forward in the Super Series event.
"I'm not setting targets for the players but this doesn't make the All England any less important. We are very serious about the tournament," said Kim Hock yesterday.
"Of course it will be nice to see Kien Keat-Boon Heong win again but they are not the only ones who have to do well. In fact, I want to see an overall improvement from the other players especially with the Olympics in mind.
"The top players must do well to maintain their world ranking while the others must improve on theirs. The Thomas Cup and Uber Cup qualifiers have been good tournaments for our players and I'm confident they can keep their momentum going."
Kien Keat-Boon Heong and women's doubles Wong Pei Tty-Chin Eei Hui were Malaysia's only representatives in the All England semi-final stage last year but this is expected to improve this year.
World No 2 singles Lee Chong Wei's recent form suggests he can make it to the final even if he comes up against Indonesia's Olympic champion Taufik Hidayat in the last eight.
Veterans Choong Tan Fook-Lee Wan Wah, runners-up in 2004 and 2006, are the other pair vying for a place in the semi-finals.
Chong Wei and Kien Keat-Boon Heong leave for England today and will be involved in an exhibition match at Milton Keynes on Saturday before proceeding to Birmingham.
The second batch of players, who are involved in the qualifying rounds on Tuesday, will leave on Saturday while the rest leave on Sunday.