Pearly Tan & Thinaah Muralitharan seemed destined for a two-set exit at the Axiata Arena today but then something extraordinary happened.
By the middle of the second set the two Malaysians were struggling to get any sort of foothold in the match. Fukushima and Hirota were consistently winning rallies as they ensnared their opponents in a war of attrition. They were repeatedly sending up big clears, extending rallies and targeting a visibly exhausted Pearly for point after point.
Suddenly something shifted. The fans detected a glimmer of…something… and a resistance was born. Intelligently Tan & Thinaah called the Japanese bluff and turned their strategy back on them. Perhaps the exertions of last week’s Sudirman cup started to be felt. Incredibly they managed to level the scores and then held on under incredible pressure to force a decider.
The third set began horrifically for PearThin and I suspected that they had given too much to stay in the match. They were 1-6 down before they managed to start clawing their way back into the tie. There was a mesmerizing rhythm to the exchanges. The Malaysian pair kept prolonging the rallies and Hirota especially was put under immense stress. Between them, FukuHiro misjudged the baseline 5 times in the first half of the last set and Tan/Thinaah seized their chance.
All four athletes were tired, seemingly functioning on muscle memory as they fought from point to point. All four should be proud of their resilience and desire. But with the score deadlocked on 12-12 Pearly – completely depleted – summoned up some last energy and scored a big point at the net: 13-12.
The duo who never give up just didn’t give up. The lucky spectators at the Perodua Malaysia Masters were treated to an exhibition of resilience, teamwork and spirit with touches of brilliance at key moments. They closed out the final set 21-16. What a day for Pearly Tan and Thinaah Muralitharan, fantastic! That was a GAME.
If you enjoyed this take a look at my old article about Tan/Thinaah. It needs an update but it’s still fun to read https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/11/21/pearly-tan-thinaah-muralitharan/ or this one about FukuHiro https://womensbadminton.co.uk/2021/08/27/yuki-and-sayaka-at-the-olympics/
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