Can it be true? Consistent national badminton players?

Okay, they won again. I’m a little more impressed. I’m sure others will cover the men’s doubles finals in the Swiss Open, so I’ll be content so simply say that I was cheering for Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong the whole way.
I wanted to talk about yesterday, when I turned on the TV to catch the action, and lo and behold I was surprised to see that their opponents were the formidable Indonesian/US pairing of Chandra Wijaya and Tony Gunawan (whom I think has to be one of the best doubles players ever). Now understand that in the papers yesterday morning KKK-TBH was supposed to meet Fu Haifeng and Cai Yun – a prospect I didn’t want to miss. A rematch so quickly after defeating them in the All England? Mouth-watering.
So imagine my surprise at finding that they are not playing the Chinese world champs. TheStar has never let me down before. Hrmph. Just when I thought of settling down to watch this unexpected matchup, Gillian Clark (who is the best badminton commentator at present, although she does repeat herself quite often) said that KKK-TBH had already beaten the Chinese pair enroute to the semi-fnals.
Huh?
I wasn’t expecting this news. What, the Chinese were dispatched without much fanfare? What is this? I’m not used to Malaysians beating world champs like they were qualifiers, especially after Malaysians win major tournaments. Their mental strength was never this dependable.
The last Malaysian to win the All England disappeared from the radar – like Chinese metropolis towns disappearing from satellite views because of air pollution.
So anyway, while I sat there stunned that they’ve whacked the Chinese, the game started. The Indonesians were clearly onto their game. Although Wijaya-Gunawan lost the first game, they came back in the second and completely closed the boys out with vicious attacks. Any shuttles lifted were quickly dealt with, especially by Chandra Wijaya who was simply mesmerizing.
I had thought the Malaysians have clearly ridden their luck for as long as they could have hoped, and would fade out as the Indonesians seemed have figured them out. The third game was a washout, but surprisingly it was the Malaysians who did all the washing. Gillian Clark commented at one point in the third game, “What happened to the Indonesians?” Let me enlighten you, Jill. Rexy Mainaiky happened. Even I could tell you what he told the boys in the third game interval: “Keep the bloody shuttle low.”
If anyone had a recording of the match, the second and the third game the Malaysians played were completely different. Gunawan and Wijaya could not smash at all, and they were clearly unstuck at the speeds the shuttles were being sent back just above the net. That was tactical play at its best.
It was a fantastic semi-final, all told. The boys deserved to go to the finals. After Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun and Wijaya-Gunawan, who else could stand up to them? Only themselves – will their mental strength carry them through?
As I said in a post last week after their win at All England, the boys have to keep their heads low. They are clearly a first in Malaysia in that they can continue winning and show no fear at their opponents, whoever they may be. I’d shake their hands and pat their backs if I see them. But please, let’s hope the media plays it straight and keeps it level. They are still young, have a long way to go. I hope they don’t turn into the Cheah Soon Kit-Soo Beng Kiang or Cheah Soon Kit-Chong Tan Fook partnerships.
Well done, Swiss Open men’s doubles champions. Winning 3 out of the 4 Super Series tournaments and being the Asian Games champions – all within 6 months is nothing to be sneezed at.
But let us not feed their egos too much – they have a job to do, which is to keep us smiling and the flag flying high.


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