The first Super 500 event of the New Year starts a busy period for many of the world’s best on the HSBC BWF World Tour. It also acts as a perfect form guide ahead of the YONEX All England as anticipation starts to build for Birmingham 6-10 March.
With the All England entry closing in just 5 days we look at what the Malaysia Masters tells us.
Men’s singles is hugely unpredictable.
It’s seen as the crown jewel event in the All England crown but the men’s singles event is so, so wide open this year.
Lee Chong Wei recently said that Kento Momota was “the man to beat” after the Japanese stars' revival run to the world number slot during a comeback 2018. Here, King Kento was surprisingly dethroned in round one by teammate Kenta Nishimoto who in turn lost out to qualifier Lee Zii Jia, himself chasing an All England spot.
With the return to fitness of semi finalist Viktor Axelsen and a resurgent Chen Long reaching the final here, some of the game's biggest names are priming for Birmingham
Don’t rule out the chasing pack either as Daren Liew looks to play catch up. He defeated Shi Yuqi – the reigning All England and World Tour finals champion – en route to the final four here.
Add in champion Son Wan Ho and Lin Dan, who loiters having reached the final in Thailand two weeks ago, an India and Indonesia challenge and it makes for a compelling draw.
Intanon in the groove.
Thai star Ratchanok Intanon will be desperate to make last year’s first round exit to Michelle Li a distant memory in Birmingham. Here she had a title to defend –and it was the very manner of that title defense that will give her serious hope of a third YONEX All England final in Birmingham.
She defeated yONEX All England reigning champ Tai Tzu Ying and Olympic champ Carolina Marin – who between them won seven world tour titles last year - here in what was a tough looking draw. She also dismantled Gregoria Mariska Tunjung, the young Indonesia hot shot, in the style of game in which Ratchanok has typically struggled to find her form.
Expect Intanon to be all guns blazing in Birmingham fuelled by will to make amends.
No stopping Indonesia's 'minions'
Will winning become a chore for Kevin Sanjaya Sukamuljo and Marcus Fernaldi Gideon? They won their 21st world circuit title here in what was their 25th world circuit final together.
After eight titles in 2018, there was certainly no sign of complacency here and wins over home favourites Goh and Tan and surprise finalists Ong and Teo show they will be overwhelming favourites to land the All England hat trick.
The Malaysian men’s doubles line up has been strengthened, and will be ones to watch, but Indonesia’s poster boys look a class above the field at the moment.
Significantly, they also broke away from their 2018 habit of having to hit the comeback trail to win matches here.
Twin Peaks for returning champions
Yuta Watanabe and Arisa Higashino know how to peak at just the right time.
Our reigning Mixed Doubles champions added the Malaysia Masters title to their collection this weekend. Top seeded, the enigmatic Japanese duo lived up to the billing with wins over Rio 2016 silver medalists Chan Peng Soon and Goh Liu Ying and then the super in form Puavaranukroh and Taerattanachai in the final in which the top two seeds went head to head.
There was some big name pairs missing in Malaysia but we can’t see Yuta and Arisa giving up their All England title without a real battle in March.
Japan's red hot women's game
Japan’s dominance of the Women’s Doubles game was nothing short of remarkable last year, winning 11 of the 16 events at Super 500 status and above in 2018.
Here, that ‘bossing’ of the World Tour showing no sign of slowing after Yuki Fukushima and Sayaka Hirota’s victory in Malaysia.
The world number one pair do the tough stuff really well.
Here they showed a 'never give up' fighting spirit and a will to win scruffy points to see off Greysia Polii and Apriyani Rahayu in a three-end final.
The Indonesians will themselves fancy an All England title - to add to those won in India and Thailand last year - on this form. They beat reigning World Tour Finals champs Matsutomo and Takahashi to reach the final.