Malaysia crashed out of the Thomas Cup quarter-finals after a 3-2 defeat against India, as third men's singles Leong Jun Hao failed to deliver the all-important point against H. S. Prannoy in the deciding match.
The defeat also meant the national contingent crashed out in the same stage last year at the rescheduled 2020 edition when they lost 3-0 to Indonesia.
It started promisingly enough for Malaysia when Lee Zii Jia expertly dismantled Lakshya Sen 23-21, 21-9 with another masterclass display.
Lee, who was out to avenge his All-England semi-final against Sen, took immediate measures to make it happen by leading for most parts of the first game but Sen battled on to close the deficit and held match points at 20-18.
The match took another twist as the Malaysian fought back to force deuce before finishing off 23-21.
If the opening game was a tight affair, the second was anything but as Lee swiftly moved through the gears to take a commanding 7-0, and cruised from then on with many winners on the deep ends of the court for the 21-9 win.
But the Indians recovered admirably, beginning with their first men’s doubles pair Satwiksairaj Rankireddy-Chirag Shetty, who turned on the firepower to blitz past Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin 21-19, 21-15.
Goh-Izzuddin, who were excellent against Japan on Wednesday, failed to keep up with the high tempo their opponents had set from the start, and succumbed in 41 minutes.
Next up was Ng Tze Yong, who tried hard but failed to match the quality of K. Srikanth who dominated from start to finish for a 21-11, 21-17 victory to give India a 2-1 lead.
Aaron Chia-Teo Ee Yi managed to level matters for Malaysia with a confident 21-19, 21-17 victory over Krishna Prasad-Vishnuvardhan Panjala.
The pairing, fielded together for the first time against Japan, exemplified composure during crucial rallies to keep Malaysia in the hunt courtesy of their 37-minute victory.
With the scores tied at 2-2, it was up to Leong to turn the tables on Prannoy, but the Malaysian faced a confident opponent who simply wasn’t going to give away much.
Prannoy wrapped up victory for the Indians in just under 40 minutes by blowing away Leong 21-13, 21-8.