Badminton: Fairuzizuan-Zakry relish the challenges in Masters Finals (pic)

Dangermen: Jung Jae-sung and Lee Yong-dae (right) of South Korea are among the title favourites in the Super Series Masters Final.

PETALING JAYA: The national number one men’s pair of Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Mohd Zakry Latif have avoided Olympic champions Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan in the group stages of the Super Series Masters Finals, which begin on Thursday in Kota Kinabalu.Dangermen: Jung Jae-sung and Lee Yong-dae (right) of South Korea are among the title favourites in the Super Series Masters Final.

But they still have to brace for some tough battles. Fairuzizuan-Zakry qualified for the Finals as the second ranked pair in the Super Series standings behind the Markis-Hendra and can only be up against their bogey pair from the semi-finals.

But that is of little comfort as they can expect to have matches against top pairs in the likes of South Koreans Lee Yong-dae-Jung Jae-sung and 2000 Sydney Olympic champions Candra Wijaya-Tony Gunawan, who now play under the Indonesian and American banner respectively.

Other qualifiers are team-mates Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, South Koreans Cho Gun-woo-Yoo Yeon-seong and two Danish pairs — Simon Mollyhus-Anders Kristiansen and Mathias Boe-Carsten Mogensen.

Gun-woo-Yeon-seong and Boe-Mogensen are the replacements for China’s Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun and another Danish pair Lars Paaske-Jonas Rasmussen, who withdrew from the Series Finals, which offer a prize money of US$42,000 to the men’s doubles champions.

The big purse is enough to motivate Fairuzizuan-Zakry to end the year on a high after getting their game back on track recently.

Fairuzizuan-Zakry were beaten 23-25, 21-19, 20-22 by Yong-dae-Jae-sung in the Hong Kong Open final but the Malaysians have climbed to a career-best fourth spot in the world rankings.

“That was one of our best performances after some time and we needed it to boost our morale,” said Fairuzizuan, who will leave with Zakry for Kota Kinabalu today.

“We know we can still give the top pairs a good fight and our target in Sabah is to reach at least the semi-finals. We hope to top the group but it’s not going to be easy if we have the top Korean pair (Yong-dae-Jae-sung) in our group.

“We have lost twice to them while it will be worse if Tony-Candra are also in the same group as we also do not have a good record against them.”

Fairuzizuan was limited to doing only physical workouts in the gymnasium as his partner was playing in the mixed doubles in the National Grand Prix Finals last week.

Although there has been no court training, Fairuzizuan said that their preparations had not been affected as they would start work together again once they arrive in Kota Kinabalu.

The other Malaysians who earned berths in the Finals are Lee Chong Wei and Wong Choong Hann (men’s singles); Wong Mew Choo (women’s singles); Chin Eei Hui-Wong Pei Tty (women’s doubles) and Lim Khim Wah, who will play in the mixed doubles with Pei Tty.



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