Timesport's rating on Malaysia's Thomas Cup team

KUALA LUMPUR: Nobody had really expected the Malaysian team to go far in this year's Thomas Cup in Chengdu, China.

However, much to everyone's surprise, Lee Zii Jia and company silenced the naysayers by smashing their way into the semi-finals of the world team championship for the first time in eight years.

The last four stage was never going to be easy, as it was always a mammoth task to defeat mighty China in their backyard.

Despite all that, the Malaysian players gave their all and went down fighting 3-1.

Below is Timesport's rating of the Malaysian players (world rankings in brackets)

Lee Zii Jia (No. 10)

Win-loss record: 3-2

Rating: 7/10

Prior to the tournament, Zii Jia was already under the spotlight for various reasons.

From being compensated for image rights and choosing to not join national centralised training, his patriotism was even questioned by some.

Unfazed by the criticism, the former All England champion rose to the occasion to help inspire his teammates to the last four, by winning the crucial first point in most of the matches.

Zii Jia's only losses in the tournament came against world No. 1 Viktor Axelsen in the group stage and against world No. 2 Shi Yu Qi in the semis.

Zii Jia was among the few Malaysian shuttlers who played in every single match from the start of the event in Chengdu.

Aaron Chia-Soh Wooi Yik (No. 5)

Win-loss record: 3-1

Rating: 8/10

The former world champions have proven again that they are Malaysia's most consistent duo at the moment.

By inspiring the Malaysian team into the Thomas Cup semi-finals, Aaron-Wooi Yik have now won a medal in every major event, including the Olympics.

With Wooi Yik as the team captain, the men's pair led by example.

Despite a narrow defeat against Japan's Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi in the quarter-finals, Aaron-Wooi Yik made amends by stunning world No. 1 Liang Wei Keng-Wang Chang in the semi-finals.

The win was only their second over the Chinese pair in eight meetings.

Leong Jun Hao (No. 37)

Win-loss record: 2-2

Rating: 7.5/10

While all attention was on his more established teammates, Jun Hao was quietly doing his part for the team.

Despite suffering two defeats in the competition - to newly crowned European champion Anders Antonsen (Denmark) and Hangzhou Asian Games champion Li Shi Feng (China), Jun Hao upset Hong Kong's Angus Ng in the group stage and Japan's Koki Watanabe in the quarter-finals.

As second singles, Jun Hao's immense contribution to the squad was somewhat overshadowed by some of his teammates.

In the absence of the injured Ng Tze Yong, Jun Hao proved to be a worthy replacement, one who can be counted on in major team events.

Hopefully the fine showing in Chengdu will propel the shuttler's individual career.

Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani (No. 15)

Win-loss: 3-1

Rating: 7.5/10

Goh Sze Fei-Nur Izzuddin Rumsani turned out to be a formidable second doubles for Malaysia.

After a temporary split in partnership last year, the duo came back together with a bang.

Fresh from reaching the Asian Championships final, Sze Fei-Izzuddin carried their momentum into the Thomas Cup and did brilliantly in the group match against Denmark, and in the quarter-finals against Japan.

Their only regret would be not being able to close out the match in straight games against China's He Ji Ting-Ren Xiang in the semi-finals.

If they continue to improve, Sze Fei-Izzuddin should be moving up the world rankings real fast to catch up with Aaron-Wooi Yik.

Justin Hoh (No. 233)

Win-loss record: 2-1

Rating: 7/10

The 20-year-old could not have asked for a better Thomas Cup debut.

The whole of last year was a mess for Justin who was sidelined for nearly nine months with an Achilles tendon rupture before sustaining a knee injury on his brief return to competitive action.

However, Justin moved well and played in Chengdu like he was never injured in the first place.

On top of all that, the young player showed maturity although he played the last and deciding singles role.

Still raw and rough around the edges, Justin will be a player to look out for in the coming years.

Choong Hon Jian-Haikal Nazri (No. 29)

Win-loss record: 1-0

Rating: 6/10

They were an unexpected pair, as Hon Jian was roped in at the eleventh hour, after it was confirmed that Tze Yong was not fit to compete in the Thomas Cup.

A young pair who have been on the rise on the individual circuit, Hon Jian-Haikal were always ready to play if they were called upon.

Unfortunately, the duo could only make one appearance in the competition -against minnows Algeria in the group stage.

Nonetheless, they still got the job done, and also did their part with the cheering and support.

Cheam June Wei (No. 63)

Win-loss record: 1-0

Rating: 6/10

June Wei was brought in as a backup because of his previous experience with the national team.

The 27-year-old was given the opportunity to play in one match - against Algeria in the group stage.

Although his services were only required once, June Wei did his part by being a good comrade to his teammates.

And to win a Thomas Cup medal was indeed a huge bonus.

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