Malaysia's BATC title defense thwarted by China in final showdown

KUALA LUMPUR: Malaysia's hopes of defending the Badminton Asia Team Championship (BATC) title did not materialise after the men's team lost on Sunday.

In the final, Malaysia, who were without the likes of world No. 10 Lee Zii Jia and world No. 15 Ng Tze Yong, lost 3-0 to a second-string China side at the Setia City Convention Centre (SCCC).

For the record, the title is China's first BATC men's team crown since the tournament's inception in 2016.

Early Sunday morning, the Badminton Association of Malaysia (BAM) confirmed that independent shuttler Zii Jia would not take to the court in the final after his sinus problem flared up.

The former All England champion also sat out Friday's quarter-final against Singapore with the same problem but made a winning comeback in the semi-finals against Japan on Saturday.

In his absence, world No. 38 Leong Jun Hao stepped up to play first singles. The former Asian junior champion put up a gallant fight, but it was not enough to overcome world No. 16 Weng Hong Yang, who triumphed 21-19, 21-17 in a 51-minute thriller.

The onus was on former world champions Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik to level the score, but the world No. 5 were unlucky as they went down 21-16, 16-21, 23-21 to Xie Hao Yan-Zeng Wei Han.

Without their best players fit, it was going to be a tall order to come back from 2-0 down.

To keep the tie alive, birthday boy Eogene Ewe had to win his match, but the world No. 298, who turned 19 on Sunday, found world No. 35 Lei Lan Xi too hot to handle as he bowed out in straight games 21-10, 21-14.

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