NATIONAL men’s doubles shuttlers Koo Kien Keat and Mohd Razif Abdul Latif are in different leagues but they have a common goal in the Malaysian Open Grand Prix Gold championships.
The duo aspire to keep Malaysia’s flag flying high in the men’s elite and back-up squads with their respective partners — Tan Boon Heong and Chan Peng Soon.
Kien Keat wants to take a cautious approach with Boon Heong in justifying their favourites’ tag even though several top pairs are absent from the tournament.
The Swiss Open champions have all the reasons to tread with caution because they have a record of under-achieving when a lot is expected from them.
“It is best that we take one match at a time and not make the mistake of being over confident,” said Kien Keat.
He added that they would come under the spotlight in the absence of Olympic and world champions Markis Kido-Hendra Setiawan of Indonesia.
“It will not be all smooth sailing for us. We have to watch out for several other Indonesian pairs and also not to under-estimate any of our team-mates. In fact, our first match will be a tricky one,” he said.
Kien Keat-Boon Heong will be up against Chai Biao-Liu Xiaolong, who are being groomed as the next best top pair in China, in the first round today.
Kien Keat added that the competitions they were all geared towards getting well-prepared for the world championships, which will be held in Hyderabad from Aug 10-16.
While Kien Keat and the other elite national pair, Mohd Fairuzizuan Mohd Tazari-Mohd Zakry Abdul Latif, spearhead the Malaysian challenge in the GP Gold tournament, Razif and several other back-up pairs are fired up to achieve major breakthroughs in their careers.
Razif-Peng Soon will take on Bui Bang Duc-Nguyen Ngoc Manh of Vietnam in the opening round today and have the best chance to go far.
“It will be an achievement for the back-up team if at least two pairs can make the top eight. The draw is favourable for us,” said Razif.
“Peng Soon and I last played in the Malaysian Open (opening leg of the Super series in January). Hopefully, we can go far.”
The duo are expected to play against Japanese Shoji Sato-Naoki Kawamae for a place in the quarter-finals.
The other second stringers — Hoon Thien How-Lin Woon Fui, Goh Wei Shem-Vountus Indra Mawan, Khoo Chung Chiat-Ong Soon Hock, Mak Hee Chun-Tan Wee Kiong, Teo Kok Siang-Mohd Lutfi Zaim Abdul Khalid and Lim Khim Wah-Ong Jian Guo — have tough first-round matches.
Meanwhile, Kien Keat and Razif experienced contrasting fortunes in the first round of the mixed doubles event yesterday.
Kien Keat-Ng Hui Lin set up a second-round match against China’s Chen Zhiben-Zhang Jinkang but Razif-Khe Wei crashed out 18-21, 21-15, 18-21 to the Indonesian-Russian combination of Flandi Limpele-Anastasia Russkikh.