SIX years ago, Malaysia made the semi-finals of the Thomas Cup in China, but men’s doubles Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi did not even lift their racquets in the tournament.
However, things are looking very different for them ahead of this year’s challenge in Bangkok on May 8-15, as the now independent pair have been tasked with a more crucial role as the country’s second doubles.
The pair, the world No 11, are ranked second in the country behind ninth-ranked and Tokyo Olympic bronze medallists Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik.
Yew Sin-Ee Yi, who have been consistent over the last two seasons, were recently invited by the BA of Malaysia (BAM) to join the Thomas Cup training camp at the Academy Badminton Malaysia (ABM) in Bukit Kiara.
Speaking to the media yesterday, Yew Sin said: “It feels great to be back. The atmosphere of preparing for a team event keeps us motivated.
“Sure, there is a bit of pressure on us because of the responsibility to deliver, but we do not want to think too much about it.”
In 2016, Goh V Shem-Tan Wee Kiong led the doubles challenge, while former Asian Games gold medallist Tan Boon Heong-Koo Kien Keat were the second pair.
Malaysia topped their group and made the top four after defeating Taiwan 3-1 in the quarter-finals.
In the semi-finals, the national team lost 3-2 to eventual champions Denmark.
For this year’s challenge, Malaysia are in Group D alongside 2014 champions Japan, England and New Zealand.
On the team’s chances of going a step further than their previous outing or even better ending the country’s 30-year drought for the Thomas Cup, Yew Sin replied: “I think we need to be ready and prepared for every strong team like Japan, China or even Indonesia.
“But that does not mean we can take the rest lightly. Winning against teams like England and New Zealand will be crucial to see how far we can go in the competition.
“On paper, we are ranked higher than Japan’s second doubles (Akira Koga-Taichi Saito), but in today’s badminton, especially in doubles, ranking plays very little importance.
“Look at Indonesia, even a top 20 or 30 pair can play and win the All England. I won’t rely on ranking too much.”
Apart from Aaron-Wooi Yik and Yew Sin-Ee Yi, the other Malaysian pair are world No 16 Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani.
On whether Malaysia could scratch their pairs in Bangkok, Yew Sin said: “For strategy, maybe, but we are not hoping for anyone to get injured. We do practice playing with different pairs.”
Before leaving for Thailand, Yew Sin-Ee Yi will first compete in the Badminton Asia Championships (BAC) in Manila on April 26-May 1.