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Friday, March 16, 2007

All England Stunner

All England Championships: Pair carve their names with pride

Koo Kien Keat and Tan Boon Heong yet again demonstrated why they are the world’s most exciting young pair when they beat China’s world champions Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun to end Malaysia’s 25-year wait for an All England men’s doubles title at the National Indoor Arena in Birmingham yesterday.

And the Malaysia pair did it in dazzling style winning 21-15, 21-18 in a gripping 39 minutes. "It was such an important title for us. It is definitely our first major victory and more meaningful than the Asian Games gold," said a delighted Kien Keat."It has been 25 years since the previous victory and we are proud of the feat."

Prime Minister Datuk Seri Abdullah Ahmad Badawi called Khoo Kien Keat immediately after the match to offer his congratulations to the pair.

The pair’s staggering success rate now stands at three titles in five tournaments since Kien Keat, 22, and Boon Heong, 20, competed in the Japan Open last October. Kien Keat-Boon Heong announced their arrival on the world stage when they ended Malaysia’s 36-year-wait for an Asian Games badminton gold in Doha last December.National men’s doubles coach Rexy Mainaky, after the painful episode of seeing last year’s All England title snatched by Denmark’s Jens Eriksen-Martin Lundgaard Hansen despite having three pairs in the semi-finals, had badly wanted his players win it this year.And this they did.

Kien Keat-Boon Heong rose to the occasion to deny Haifeng-Cai Yun their second crown after having won the title in 2005.Kien Keat-Boon Heong started cautiously but once they settled in, there was no stopping the Malaysians with Kien Keat dominant at the baseline, while Boon Heong’s superb netplay earned vital points. Kien Keat-Boon Heong wrapped up the first game 21-15 but, as is always the case, they started getting fancy with their strokes which nearly cost them the second game.

However, realising that fancy play was not helping them, they reverted to their attacking game and put the pressure on the World No 1 pair who started losing their grip. Kien Keat, after securing match point at 20-18, could not help himself and did a quick jig which signalled the Malaysians pairs’ confidence which they displayed by winning the vital point, the game and the title just minutes later, much to the relief of the Malaysian bench and supporters.

"Our strategy was to play fast as Haifeng-Cai Yun are quicker on court and we needed to outdo them in this area," said Kien Keat."I didn’t feel the pressure playing the final but I am feeling it now as I must shave my head bald. That was the bet I took with my teammates if I win but I don’t know if I will do or not.""Boon Heong played well today (yesterday) and our hope is that we can continue playing like this and win more major titles."

Rexy, who turned 39 on Friday, said that the victory is not just because of his their abilities but also the duo’s discipline and their humbleness despite their new found fame. "Firstly, I would like to thank god for helping Kien Keat-Boon Heong achieve this feat. My commitment was to make them realise that arrogance is not the way of champions but being humble," said Rexy.
"God has answered our prayers and we now have two players who are not just good but also learning fast how to cope with fame without being cocky. "I’m really happy that I received this belated birthday present and the win was not a fluke."

Sports Minister Datuk Azalina Othman also conveyed her congratulations to the top young pair and hopes their victory will rub off on other Malaysian athletes."It’s good that this young pair is coming up as Malaysian sport before this was all about Nicol David and the bowlers," said Azalina."Their goal now should be the Olympic gold medal next year in China."

In the men’s singles played earlier, China’s World No 1 Lin Dan beat compatriot Chen Yu 21-13, 21-12 in 32 minutes to seal his third straight All England singles title.

Results — (All finals) Men’s singles: Lin Dan (Chn) bt Chen Yu (Chn) 21-13, 21-12.
Doubles: Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong (Mas) bt Fu Haifeng-Cai Yun (Chn) 21-15, 21-18.
Women’s singles: Xie Xingfang (Chn) bt Pi Hongyan (Fra) 21-6, 21-13.
Doubles: Wei Yili-Zhang Yawen (Chn) bt Yang Wei-Zhang Jiewen (Chn) 21-16, 8-21, 24-22.
Mixed doubles: Zheng Bo-Gao Ling (Chn) bt Anthony Clark-Donna Kellogg (Eng) 16-21, 21-18, 21-14.

K.M. Boopathy, NST