Chen Tang Jie and Toh Ee Wei had mixed luck in the last event of 2023, but the Malaysians did have some positive takeaways for the New Year. With the PETRONAS Malaysia Open 2024 on home turf coming up at the start of the Olympic year, Chen and Toh will look to build on the gains from last year, when they broke into the top 10 after starting the year outside the top 100.
After a dispiriting straight-games loss to Feng Yan Zhe/Huang Dong Ping in their first match of the HSBC BWF World Tour Finals 2023, the Malaysians bounced back, beating Yuta Watanabe/Arisa HIgashino for the first time in three meetings. And although they did lose their last match to Dechapol Puavaranukroh/Sapsiree Taerattanachai, it was a well-contested battle.
“After we lost (the first match) I was down mentally,” said Toh. “We just decided to go all out as we’d lost in the first match. So am very happy we could win, because there are a lot of expectations and we had to fight through the pressure and win the game.”
“We’d never beat this pair (Watanabe/Higashino) before. We’d lost two matches previously in straight games. I felt we went all out as we’d lost the first match, we didn’t think too much — only focus and trust your partner.”
“We appreciate the result, but we’re not really proud, because this was not the main goal,” Chen said. “We’re very happy that we can fight this whole year. We are thankful we can finish the year with a healthy body.
“We gave our best. I appreciate that in this year my partner can fight with me, no matter what. We will come back stronger.”
It had been a breakthrough year for the Malaysians, whose partnership only started in late 2022. They won their first title of the year at Orleans, followed by the Taipei Open. With Paris 2024 on their mind, and in a bid to get their ranking up, they played 25 events during the year. The strategy paid off, for, although they did suffer some early exits, they were in the semifinals of four upper-tier events, including the VICTOR China Open. Their performances were rewarded with a nomination for ‘BWF Most Improved Player of the Year’.
“It means that we did a great job, and I’m proud of myself and my partner, but this is not the end; it’s just a breakthrough, so we still need to improve and catch up,” said Chen.
Having come far in quick time, what do they need to do to consistently beat the top pairs?
“The difference is in consistency and confidence in ourselves,” said Chen. “Of course, for the top players, their strategy, their mindset is more mature than ours, but I believe that we can do well in future.
“Of course there’s skill — mental, physical. These three things, we need to improve. I think sport is unlimited, skill and mindset are unlimited. Every time we play we have to improve.”
Chen and Toh are the highest-ranked Malaysians in the mixed doubles draw at the PETRONAS Malaysia Open 2024. They face France’s Thom Gicquel/Delphine Delrue in their opening encounter.