Genuine test awaits Izzuddin-Sze Fei at Korea Masters

KUALA LUMPUR: Men's pair Nur Izzuddin Rumsani-Goh Sze Fei's Olympic-qualifying credentials will be tested when they compete in the Korea Masters, which start in Gwangju on Tuesday.

Izzuddin-Sze Fei have made significant progress since rejoining forces in June, winning three titles, namely the US Open, Kaohsiung Masters, and Abu Dhabi Masters.

However, it's worth noting that all three of these successes were achieved in tournaments with a diluted field, with the most notable pair they defeated being world No. 18 Lee Jhe Huei-Yang Po Hsuan of Taiwan en route to their Kaohsiung Masters victory.

World No. 24 Izzuddin-Sze Fei have yet to prove themselves in higher-tier tournaments, with their best performance being reaching the quarter-finals of the Hong Kong Open and Korea Open.

Seeded fifth this week, Izzuddin-Sze Fei will certainly need to elevate their game as they have been drawn in the same quarter as reigning world champions Kang Min Hyuk-Seo Seung Jae of Korea.

The Malaysians are expected to face Taiwan's world No. 47 Chiu Hsiang Chieh-Yang Ming Tse in the second round.

National coaching director Rexy Mainaky acknowledged that the Korea Masters present Izzuddin-Sze Fei with a great opportunity to demonstrate that they have what it takes to contend for a spot in 2024 Paris Olympics.

"I don't have to give them a target because they know exactly what they want, the direction they intend to pursue, and the target they're aiming for," said Rexy.

"It's no longer about whether they have a tough draw or not. They must be ready to fight and overcome whomever they encounter on their path.

"The moment they decided to reunite (following a brief four-month split), they should have already known that the odds are heavily stacked against them in all the tournaments."

Having started from scratch, a string of solid results has helped elevate Izzuddin-Sze Fei to No. 21 on the Race to Paris standings.

They are currently the fourth-highest-ranked Malaysians behind Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik (No. 2), Ong Yew Sin-Teo Ee Yi (No. 11), and Man Wei Chong-Tee Kai Wun (No. 15).

To secure a spot, Izzuddin-Sze Fei will need to break into the top eight by April 28 next year because the maximum representation in the doubles event is limited to two pairs, provided both are ranked within the top eight.

"It won't be easy, as they are playing catch-up. They must shift into 'sixth gear' from now on if they hope to finish in the top eight," said Rexy.

Six Malaysian pairs are participating in the Korea Masters, including last week's KL Masters finalists Low Hang Yee-Ng Eng Cheong and Wan Arif Junaidi-Yap Roy King.

In the mixed doubles, Chan Peng Soon-Cheah Yee See aim to build on their KL Masters title victory.

They will be joined by world No. 10 Chen Tang Jie-Toh Ee Wei, Goh Soon Huat-Shevon Lai Jemie and Tan Kian Meng-Lai Pei Jing.

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