AXIATA CUP: New format will help country's players sharpen up for the Sudirman Cup
THE US$1 million (RM3.1 million) Axiata Cup, badminton's richest team competition, has introduced a new format which will be used by teams to prepare for the mixed team Sudirman Cup on May 19-26 in Kuala Lumpur.
Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam and the Philippines along with All-Star Asia and All-Star Europe make up the eight-team event.
The tournament, which incepted last year, will include women's singles and mixed doubles for the first time.
Each tie will comprise four matches -- men's and women's singles, men's doubles and mixed doubles.
The opening round-robin preliminary matches will be played in Surabaya, Indonesia on March 21-24 and the return leg in Kuala Lumpur on March 29-31.
Kuala Lumpur will host the semi-finals and final on April 13-14.
World No 12 Liew Daren will lead the national team, also comprising Chong Wei Feng, Tee Jing Yi, Koo Kien Keat-Tan Boon Heong, Chan Peng Soon-Goh Liu Ying and Lim Yin Loo.
Two-time All England champion Lee Chong Wei has not been registered for the preliminary round in Surabaya but the World No 1 could feature in the return leg and the knockout stage.
Malaysian Open finalist Sony Dwi Kuncoro and Simon Santoso lead a strong 19-member Indonesia team.
World junior champion Ratchanok Intanon is part of the nine-member Thai team while Nguyen Tien Minh heads the Vietnam side.
South Korea's two-time Olympic semi-finalist Lee Hyun Il and India's Ashwini Ponnappa are in the All Star Asian team.
China's two-time Olympic champion Lin Dan and Indonesia's former world champion Taufik Hidayat could feature in the later stages of the tournament.
Denmark's former All England champion Tine Baun is among the top draw from the Europe team.
BA of Malaysia (BAM) secretary Kenny Goh said the Axiata Cup will be the perfect platform for the national players to prepare for the Sudirman Cup.
"The Axiata Cup is not one of our projected targets for the season but our shuttlers will do their best to at least make the semi-finals," said Kenny at the launch in Kuala Lumpur yesterday.
"As there are not many team competitions, this tournament will be an avenue for our shuttlers to gain experience for the Sudirman Cup.
"The pressure in team competitions is higher compared to individual events and our shuttlers will gain from this."
On Chong Wei's availability, Kenny said the shuttler may play but only in KL.
"We are allowed to add players for the later stages of the tournament. As for the opening round in Surabaya, we have named 10 shuttlers," he said.
Axiata Group CEO Datuk Seri Jamaludin Ibrahim, former Olympic doubles champion Ricky Subagja, Badminton Asia Confederation president Katsuto Momii and Total Sports Asia Group CEO Marcus Luer were among the attendees yesterday.
"The tournament is shaping up as a regular fixture on the badminton calendar. With the new format and the inclusion of women players, the event will be very exciting this year," said Jamaludin.
In last year's final, Indonesia Garuda, led by Simon and Taufik, defeated Indonesia Rajawali 5-1 on aggregate.
The champions will walk away with US$400,000 (RM1.2 million) while the runners-up will earn US$200,000 (RM600,000).