M’sia start to sweat under pressure

SINGAPORE: The needle on Malaysia’s sporting pressure chamber is creeping into the red after their badminton chief called on the players to win all their group matches in the upcoming Thomas and Uber cups.The most prestigious team event for men and women shuttlers begins on Sunday in Kuala Lumpur’s Putra Stadium where the world’s elite are primed to do battle.

This dazzling line-up of talent has in no way diminished Datuk Nazdmi Salleh’s expectations, though, as the president of Badminton Association of Malaysia called on his team to rally support at home.

“The more matches the team win, the better the vocal support,” he told reporters, adding that Malaysia were one of five teams capable of winning the men’s Thomas Cup.

“As such, I hope the shuttlers can get off to a flying start and win both their group matches before the knockout stage starts on May 12. I just want the players to give their best as the Malaysian fans deserve to see them fighting all the way.”

The five-time Thomas Cup champions trail only 13-time champions Indonesia and seven-time champions China in the winners’ standings, but have not triumphed since a 1992 victory on home soil.

Malaysia’s women have never tasted Uber Cup success.     The Malaysian men are in Group B of the Thomas Cup with Japan and Nigeria.

Defending champions China are in Group A with South Korea and Peru while Denmark, Germany and Poland are in Group C.

Former champions Indonesia head Group D and will play India and Australia.

In the Uber Cup, Malaysia are in Group A with China and the United States.

Indonesia, Denmark and Australia are in Group B, Japan, Russia and Germany in Group C while South Korea, India and South Africa are in Group D.

The powerful Chinese team arrived in Malaysia on Wednesday after 45 days of closed door training in Fujian province, but the favourites would not discuss their chances of defending.

Five-time Uber Cup champions Japan, meanwhile, are still sweating on injuries to key players Eriko Hirose and Reika Kakiwa.

Chief coach Park Joo Bong said Japan’s hopes of winning the title for the first time since 1981 would depend on how fast the duo recover.

“I am worried about the leg injuries to Eriko and Reika but our first target is to get into the quarter-finals. And we will see what happens after that.

“Whatever it is we are here and ready to play no matter what.” — Reuters

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