Stunning wins by Soniia Cheah and S. Kisona in the singles could not stop Malaysia from a 3-2 defeat at the hands of defending champions Japan in the two-team Group W match in the Badminton Asia Manila Team Championships in Manila on Thursday. 
Japan topped the group with the win and face Indonesia in the quarter-finals while Malaysia will take on Chinese Taipei.
Team manager Wong Choong Hann said facing the Chinese Taipei gives the team an even chance of reaching the semi-finals which comes with an automatic berth in the Uber Cup Finals in May.
”Looking at the draw Chinese Taipei is about the best we could have asked for. It gives us an equal chance of reaching semi-finals after what we saw of the team against Japan, said Choong Hann.
The match against Japan saw Soniia, ranked No 31, upstage World No Akane Yamaguchi in a thriller that was marred by a 65-minute stoppage to repair faulty lights on Court 2. But that stoppage did nothing to Soniia’s performance.
“It was a long break but I did lose my focus. I was not distracted by the stoppage. It was one of my better performances and happy to have delivered the first point for my country,” said Soniia on her win.
Philippines Sea Games women’s singles champion S. Kisona continued with her fine run in the game in Manila when she hammered out a 21-14, 21-13 win 19th ranked Aya Ohori in 35 minutes in the third singles. Kisona is ranked a low 106.
Japan won the second singles through Sayaka Takahashi who beat Goh Jin Wei 21-18, 21-12. The champions also took the first doubles through Yuki Fukushima-Sayaka Hirota who beat Chow Mei Kuan-Lee Meng Yean 21-11, 21-15 and second doubles with Nami Matsuyama-Chiharu Shida overcoming young pair Pearly Tan Koong Le-M. Thinaah 21-15, 18-21, 21-16.
Malaysia hammered India 4-1 in roup B to top the group. Second singles Cheam June Wei was the only casualty when he lost 21-14, 16-21, 19-21 to K. Srikanth. 
Lee Zii Jia won the first singles with a 21-18, 21-15 win over B. Sai Praneeth while Leong Jun Hao was a 21-10, 21-15 winner over H.S. Prannoy. In the doubles, Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik defeated the scratch pair of M.R. Arjun-Chirag Shetty 21-18, 21-15 while professionals Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi playing the first game in Manila did not disappoint. The Thailand Masters champions won 21-14, 21-14 over another pair of Dhruv Kapila-Lakshya Sen.
In the quarter-finals, Malaysia will face Korea and Choong Hann said it be a 50-50 affair but hopes the team can continue their form after the smashing win over India.
”I was confident of a win over India but did not expect the victory margin. It has been an encouraging run in Manila so far,” added Choong Hann. – BY RIZAL ABDULLAH
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