The Malaysian teams at the Axiata Cup have both qualified for the semi finals, but their joy at qualifying has been tempered by the loss of a team Malaysia Leopard doubles player.
Ow Yao Han, who helped deliver Malaysia's second win against Vietnam, is returning to Malaysia after learning of his 52-year-old father's death on Saturday.
Coach Tan Kim Her told journalists that he was informed of the bad news by a relative and advised Yao Han to return to Kuala Lumpur.
“We are sorry for his loss, it was so sudden,” Tan said. Yao Han had partnered Chooi Kah Ming in the Jakarta preliminaries - their win helped the Leopards qualify for the semi-finals.
In Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia Tigers fought tough battles to beat Thailand in all three ties.
Hafiz Hashim delivered the first point by defeating Thai ace Boonsak Ponsana, 21-19, 21-16. Boonsak capitalised on Hafiz's slow start, but the Kelantanese picked up his pace to win the game in straight sets.
“It was tense, especially in the second set, but I managed to regain the lead and that gave me confidence to attack and win the game,” Hafiz told reporters after the 40 minute battle.
Hafiz hopes to recover quickly after playing hard two days in a row, as he is likely to be fielded as the first choice singles for Sunday's battle against team Indonesia Rajawali.
World No. 8 Malaysian doubles pair Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong admitted that they were not focused in their first game against Thai players Maneepong Jongjit-Patiphat Chalardchalaem, causing them to lose 27-25.
The Malaysians stepped up a gear in the second set, attacking the Thais with calculated moves, winning 21-9. Koo and Tan persevered and finally downed Maneepong-Patiphat 21-15 in the rubber set.
“We didn't play too well. We didn't enter the mindset of a tournament in the first game. We rethought our plan and gained control in the last couple of games,“ Koo told journalists.
Coach Kim Her explained the pair needed to focus on improving their mental strength and to focus better at smaller tournaments.
In the final game, Liew Daren sealed the Tiger's dominance against Thailand when he beat Suppanyu Avihingsanon 21-14, 21-18.
In the Jakarta group matches, Vietnam proved to be a tough competitor, but the Leopards fought back to win two out of three ties. Misbun Ramdan Misbun lost to veteran Nguyen Tien Minh 10-21, 15-21. The Malaysian doubles team of Ow and Chooi beat Bui Bang Duc-Dao Manh Thang in straight sets 21-8, 21-8. The final game saw Zulfadli Zulkifli delivering the winning point against Nguyen Hoang Nam 21-19, 16-21, 21-14.
“We were confident of winning today but it was harder than we thought. Our focus was on Nguyen Tien Minh. I’m surprised as Nguyen Hoang Nam played well and even won a game,” Zulfadli speaking of his opponent's performance to journalists.
Indonesia's Rajawali team echoed their senior team by easily qualifying for the semi-finals at the Cheras Badminton Stadium. The Indonesians hammered the Philippines team, with Tommy Sugiarto delivering a speedy win against Paul Jefferson Vivas 21-13, 21-8 in under 30 minutes.
Doubles pair Angga Pratama-Ryan Agung Saputra beat Mathias Boe-Ronel Estanislao 21-16, 21-7. The finals single game saw Hayom Rumbaka beating Antonio Benjamin Gadi 21-9, 21-18.
Team Indonesia Garuda did just as well by beating Singapore in all three games in its home country. Star player Taufik Hidayat beat Robin Gonansa 24-22, 21-13 while doubles Hendra Setiawan-Markis Kido won against Singaporeans Terry Yeo-Yi Liu 21-12, 21-16 and singles player Sony Dwi Kuncoro thrashed Huang Chiao 21-19, 21-6.
On Sunday, the Malaysians and Indonesians go head-to-head in the last preliminary rounds in Kuala Lumpur and Jakarta, to determine the winners of the group matches.