Malaysia Open: Second Bite at Cherry

Finals day at PETRONAS Malaysia Open 2024 presents two pairs – Yuta Watanabe/Arisa Higashino and Wang Chang/Liang Wei Keng – with a shot at redemption, a year after losing their title matches at Axiata Arena.

Watanabe/Higashino, who bettered Jiang Zhen Bang/Wei Ya Xin 21-15 12-21 21-15 in the semis, will not only have the chance to overcome the disappointment of their meek straight games defeat to Zheng Si Wei/Huang Ya Qiong last year, but also to etch their names in the tournament annals as the first Japanese mixed doubles champions.

“Losing is normal but here’s another opportunity to win a new match. We want to make the best use of it,” said Watanabe.

Winless in three meetings against their Korean opponents Kim Won Ho/Jeong Na Eun, the second seeds want to put things right this time.

“We are desperate for our first win against them,” admitted the 26-year-old Watanabe. “We want to produce a performance worthy of champions.”

Watanabe and Higashino celebrating their win.

Wang and Liang meanwhile, gave a tougher fight to Fajar Alfian/Muhammad Rian Ardianto before going down 18-21 21-18 13-21 in 2023. The Chinese insist they do not need that loss to motivate them to go one better.

“Our attitude is to always challenge for titles,” said Wang after the 21-12 19-21 21-13 win over 2022 winners Takuro Hoki/Yugo Kobayashi. “This is the first tournament of a new year, so we are keener to have a good start to the season.”

Standing in their way are the imperious Satwiksairaj Rankireddy/Chirag Shetty. The Asian Games gold medallists, dubbed ‘Brothers of Destruction’ by Indian fans, haven’t dropped a game all week and their eight-point run from 14-20 down in the second game against world champions Kang Min Hyuk/Seo Seung Jae yesterday has been the talk of the badminton community online.

Liang is unperturbed by the challenge that awaits him and Wang.

“We are not bad ourselves. We just need to analyse our match and get ready,” enthused the 23-year-old. Liang/Wang lead the head-to-head between the pairs 3-1.

Wang and Liang during their semifinal.

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