Malaysia chalked their first victory at the 2022 Asia Team Championships after the women’s team produced a 3-2 stirring comeback victory over defending champions Japan in their Group Y match on Tuesday.

Japan had come into this tournament held at the Setia City Convention Centre in Shah Alam without their biggest names including Nozomi Okuhara and Akane Yamaguchi, but the victory was impressive as the Malaysians came from 2-0 down to win.

The national team did not get off to a good start as S. Kisona’s winless streak continued after a tame 12-21, 16-21 defeat to Natsuki Nidaira.

Eoon Qi Xuan fared no better in her 17-21, 7-21 defeat to Riko Gunji, with the Malaysian struggling to reach the high tempo her opponent enforced.

It seemed like Japan were cruising towards a dominant victory, but Siti Nurshuhaini had other ideas and started the comeback with a 21-16, 22-20 win over Hina Akechi.

The teenager displayed composure, consistency and a ruthless streak in her victory over the Japanese, with the crowd behind her and national coaching director Wong Choong Hann encouraging her with cries of “counter attack, counter attack” from the sidelines.

When asked if she would be up to play as the first singles against India on Wednesday, Siti simply declared “I am ready.”

Next up was the combination of Pearly Tan-Valeree Siow, tasked to drag Malaysia back into this contest.

With M.Thinaah testing positive for COVID-19 hours before the event, a quick reshuffle was needed and the decision paid off.

Despite being a scratch pairing, Tan-Siow looked comfortable with each other and seamlessly worked the Japanese around, with Tan assuming control of the back court and leaving Siow to create the chances from the front.

Tan dedicated the win to her partner who was observing a period of self-isolation.

“This victory is for Thinaah. In a team event it’s normal to have a change in partners and I am glad it worked out with Siow. We did not think too much about the fact we were a new pair, and just went out and fought for the points,” she said.

It was left to Teoh Mei Xing-Anna Ching to clinch victory in the final match, and they duly did 21-12, 21-5 against a tiring Gunji-Akechi who had earlier played in the second and third women’s singles.

Malaysia are assured of a place in the semis, and next face India to determine the group champions.