'Don't take risk with Tze Yong for Thomas Cup'

KUALA LUMPUR: Former international Chong Wei Feng has warned Malaysia against fielding Ng Tze Yong for the second singles role at the forthcoming Thomas Cup Finals unless he's deemed fit to play.

Wei Feng, a two-time Thomas Cupper, welcomed the inclusion of Tze Yong as the Badminton Association of Malaysia opted for a five-men's singles roster in the Chengdu showdown from April 28 to May 5.

The other four singles players include Lee Zii Jia, Leong Jun Hao, Cheam June Wei and Justin Hoh.

Zii Jia is expected to feature prominently in the men's singles role, but the second singles spot remains anybody's guess.

The 36-year-old Wei Feng is of the opinion that Malaysia can't afford to take a gamble on a player not in his optimal condition, even though he may have the edge in terms of ranking or head-to-head record.

Wei Feng has backed third-ranked Jun Hao to assume the second singles duty instead, saying that he will be a better bet than Tze Yong if the latter is still struggling to regain full fitness after returning from minor back surgery.

"The question that lingers is whether Tze Yong is fit to play or not?" said Wei Feng who's also part of the Malaysian side that made the semi-finals in 2016.

"If he's not, then Jun Hao will be the better bet. The second singles plays a very important role in the team because you need to make up for the possible points lost from your top singles or doubles teammates.

"If at 2-0, you need to help the team seal the deal or in the event you're trailing 2-0, it's your job to keep the team's hopes alive.

"It's good to have five singles in the squad, allowing the coaches to have more options.

"But is Justin fully recovered too? Hopefully, he is because it's tough to field a player with 50-50 condition."

Wei Feng, who now runs his own academy, is best known for his instrumental role in helping Malaysia finish runners-up to Japan in the 2014 edition.

He delivered five out of six possible points from the second singles, with his only defeat being to Kento Momota in the final.

BAM seemed to have learned their lesson in order to prevent the team from going into battle with insufficient singles players.

At the Asia Team Championship final against China, Malaysia had to resort to fielding doubles specialist Haikal Nazri as the third men's singles after Zii Jia came down with sinusitis while Tze Yong was ruled out with a back injury.

Malaysia eventually lost 3-0.

With Group D main rivals Denmark and Hong Kong boasting a strong singles lineup, Malaysia need their singles players to be ready to deliver.

Denmark can certainly count on Viktor Axelsen and Anders Antonsen, the world No. 1 and No. 3, while Hong Kong have the experienced Lee Cheuk Yiu and Angus Ng.

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