Thai women’s team will still make Malaysia sweat despite Ratchanok’s absence
PETALING JAYA: Thailand’s women’s singles shuttler Ratchanok Intanon’s absence will not make the task any easier for Malaysia in the women’s team event in the Asia Team Championships.
The team led by independent women’s singles player Goh Jin Wei are set to face Thailand in Group Y in the team meet from Feb 13-18 at home at the Setia Alam Convention Centre.
While Jin Wei and her teammates should have no problems making the quarter-finals with minnows United Arab Emirates (UAE) the other team in the group, Thailand will be a tough nut to crack.
The top two teams in the group are guaranteed places in the last eight in the tournament which also acts as the qualifiers for the Uber Cup Finals from April 27-May 5 in Chengdu, China.
Malaysia need to reach the last four to be assured of a place in the Uber Cup.
Beating Thailand will give the team a more favourable draw in the quarter-finals as they will likely avoid the likes of China and Japan.
But the Thais still boast a strong team despite former world champion Ratchanok giving the tournament a miss.
In her absence, world No. 17 Supanida Katethong, Busanan Ongbamrungphan (No. 18) and Lalinrat Chaiwan (No. 39) are more than capable of winning points.
Thailand will also be dangerous in the doubles as they have selected their best pairs, world No. 10 Jongkolphan Kititharakul-Rawinda Prajongjai and world No. 13 Benyapa Aimsaard-Nuntakarn Aimsaard for the tournament.
Malaysia’s best bet for a point in the doubles will be world No. 14 Pearly Tan-M. Thinaah.
In the singles, world No. 31 Jin Wei will be the country’s biggest hope of causing an upset.
The other singles players, who will be out to make an impression are youngsters K. Letshanaa, Wong Ling Ching and Siti Nurshuhaini Azman.
In the doubles, Pearly and Thinaah will be joined by Go Pei Kee, Low Yeen Yuan, Teoh Mei Xing and Lee Xin Jie.
Jin Wei’s coach Nova Armada acknowledged that the team faced a difficult task against the Thai women.
“It will be a tough tie for us against Thailand,” said Nova.
“I hope Jin Wei can contribute a point for the team. I want her to at least put up a good fight in her match.”
Jin Wei has been stepping up her preparations for the tournament by training with the rest of the team at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara since Feb 5.
“The training sessions at ABM has gone smoothly so far,” said Nova.
“Jin Wei’s physical condition is good and hopefully she can perform at her best in the tournament.”