Malaysia’s men and Korea’s women, in Group D of their respective competitions, have roughly similar strengths; and both could, under certain circumstances, trump more fancied opponents.
Malaysia’s men are grouped with Japan, England and USA, while Korea’s women are with India, Canada and USA.
For both Malaysia and Korea, the first singles provides the thrust, in the form of Lee Zii Jia and An Se Young. Lee and An have been the flag bearers of their teams in recent times, and if they deliver up front, both teams have the doubles strength to deliver the second and third points.
Aaron Chia/Soh Wooi Yik, Ong Yew Sin/Teo Ee Yi and Goh Sze Fei/Nur Izzuddin lend Malaysia a solid look in their doubles, in much the same way as Lee So Hee/Shin Seung Chan, Kim So Yeong/Kong Hee Yong, Jeong Na Eun/Kim Hye Jeong and Baek Ha Na/Lee Yu Lim do for the Korean women’s team.
Equally, what makes their teams’ fortunes somewhat uncertain are the second and third singles. Malaysia’s likely picks are Liew Daren and Ng Tze Yong, while Korea will turn to Kim Ga Eun and Sim Yu Jin. Malaysia and Korea’s campaigns could well depend on how well these players step up under pressure.
On Momota’s Shoulders
Japan are the powerhouses in Thomas Cup Group D, with a lot riding on the form of Kento Momota and world champions Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi. Yuta Watanabe’s versatility gives Japan options in doubles, and it will be interesting to see how he will be used, considering that he has played only mixed doubles since the last Thomas Cup. Momota’s recent form hasn’t been inspiring, and Japan will hope he rediscovers his touch in time.
England have arrived with a mostly inexperienced team, with the exceptions being Ben Lane/Sean Vendy and Toby Penty.
Eye on Canada
If the Korean women are favourites in Group D, Canada have a strong shot at finishing second and making the quarterfinals, as the other contenders, India, have arrived without many of their big names such as Saina Nehwal and Ashwini Ponnappa/Sikki Reddy. Apart from Pusarla V Sindhu, the Indians will bank upon All England semifinalists Treesa Jolly/Gayatri Gopichand Pullela. It will be a tough task for the Indians to finish in the top two of their group, with the other strong contenders being Canada.
The Canadians can call upon Michelle Li, Zhang Wen Yu and Rachel Chan in singles and Rachel Honderich/Kristen Tsai and Catherine Choi/Josephine Wu in doubles – a well-rounded squad which can trouble higher-rated opponents.