The Malaysian men’s team will be touted as heavy favourites to win the Asia Team Championships, which starts on Tuesday, as they prepare to enter the fray with several established and rising shuttlers.
Runners-up at the last edition in 2020, they look almost a sure bet to reach this edition’s final, as other nations have only opted to send second stringers on paper.
Defending champions Indonesia are not coming with the likes of Anthony Ginting and Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo-Marcus Fernaldi Gideon, and likewise Japan are also without Kento Momota and Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi.
Factor in the last-minute withdrawals of Thailand and Chinese Taipei, the men's team event is on paper Malaysia’s to lose.
In all honesty, the fans and country need some sort of redemption after several months of disappointment.
After last year's Sudirman Cup in which the national team did well to reach the semis, individual results at the World Tour events since have not been good.
Another team event such as this comes at ideal time to help foster togetherness, team spirit and belief that success can be achieved if everyone has a unified common goal.
Lee Zii Jia vs Loh Kean Yew will be the ideal way to kick off Group B action, in a showdown of two shuttlers looking to win for different reasons.
For Lee, it will be a new era of venturing on his own path and learning to cope with the challenges that come along with it, while producing results.
Loh will be eager to compliment his credentials after winning the World Championships last year, and begin the year with a bang.
As for the women’s team, a tough group with Japan and India is on the cards.
Both opponents have opted to field a young squad, but the Malaysians are also in transition with a new look side.
Soniia Cheah, who led the team as the first singles at the last edition, has been replaced with S. Kisona, who is desperate for an upturn in fortunes.
In the wake of Lee Meng Yean’s departure from the national team, it will be left to Pearly Tan-M.Thinaah to lead with some much needed experience.
“Everyone is in high spirits in training and I think we are improving with every session. I hope this team event will be a good motivation booster for everyone involved,” said Thinaah, who is excited at the prospect of playing in her first big doubles event in Malaysia.
“To have the backing of the fans is a big deal for us, and I think it’s also good for the fans to come and watch live matches after a long time.”
The women’s team play India in their first match on Tuesday.