Doubles ace Pearly hopes for injury-free 2024 after challenging season

KUALA LUMPUR: Instead of aspiring for a spectacular Olympic Games debut, all national doubles ace Pearly Tan hopes for next year is to remain healthy and injury-free.

The 23-year-old's sentiment is understandable, especially after enduring an eventful year marked by injuries and health issues.

Pearly was not spared even in the closing stretch of 2023, as she had just recovered from Covid-19 last week.

"There were too many ups and downs this year; I wouldn't say that it was a good year for me," said Pearly after her training session at the Academy Badminton Malaysia in Bukit Kiara.

"Injuries, falling sick... in fact, I was infected by Covid-19 recently. It took me about five days to recover from it.

"But all in all, I'm still looking on the bright side of things and am happy that I have managed to overcome all the predicaments faced.

"Yes, I've suffered in the process, but in each of these hardships, I've also learned a lot and became stronger.

"I can now put all of these unpleasant things behind me. I'm also no longer bothered by the injury, and I'm now focusing on prevention to get my body back into top shape and condition.

"So for 2024, I'm not even thinking about setting any big targets yet. The one thing I really hope for next year is to steer clear of injury and remain healthy."

Pearly-M. Thinaah enjoyed a good start in the first half of their 2023 campaign, coming runners-up in the Malaysia Masters in May and being semi-finalists in succession at the India Open, Indonesia Masters, and German Open between January and March.

They also played a pivotal role in helping Malaysia win bronze at the Sudirman Cup in Suzhou, China, in May.

But all that changed after Pearly suffered an injury at the Singapore Open in June and was forced to miss the Indonesia Open.

Despite struggling to make an impression upon their return, the pair did show signs of revival by reaching the final of the Hong Kong Open and narrowly missing a medal at the World Championships in Copenhagen and the Hangzhou Asian Games.

In October, Pearly faced a back injury scare at the Arctic Open in Finland and had to be sidelined for the Denmark and French Open.

Pearly-Thinaah returned in November and played two more tournaments but ended their campaign on a sour note, losing in the opening round of the China Masters.

Once ranked as high as world No. 5, they are currently placed No. 12.

Pearly is looking to start afresh on home soil at the Malaysia Open, serving as the season-opener for the World Tour from Jan 9-14.

She said playing in front of home fans brings out the best in her and urged the fans to throng the Axiata Arena.

"I love to play on home ground; I just love to hear the fans cheering, and I'm really excited for the Malaysia Open," she said.

Pearly-Thinaah have a tough draw as they face world No. 8 Tan Ning-Liu Sheng Shu in the opening hurdle, while world No. 1 Chen Qing Chen-Jia Yi Fan are also in their path in the same quarter.

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