Malaysians at the heart of Japan’s plans to land world titles

PETALING JAYA: Japan have yet to produce winners in the men’s doubles and mixed doubles at the World Championships, and neither have South Korea in the women’s singles.

And these badminton powerhouses will be counting on three former national coaches – Tan Kim Her, Jeremy Gan and Wong Tat Meng – to help them realise their goals when the world meet starts in Huelva, Spain, on Sunday.

Confidence is growing in both the Japanese and Korean camps that they can contend in these three events after their players shone at the just-concluded World Tour Finals.Korean sensation An Se-young, coached by Tat Meng, had won three titles out of four finals including making a clean sweep of all honours at stake in Bali.

After missing out on the Denmark Open crown by a whisker, she bounced back in style by winning the Indonesian Masters, Indonesian Open and World Tour Finals.

Se-young, only 19, will be making her worlds debut in Huelva.

The closest South Korea had ever come to winning the women’s singles world title was through Bang Soo-hyun, who was pipped in the final by Indonesia’s Susi Susanti in Birmingham 1993.

Kim Her, meanwhile, guided Takuro Hoki-Yugo Kobayashi to three men’s doubles titles – the Denmark Open, Indonesian Masters and the Tour Finals.

The world No. 6 were also runners-up at the Indonesian Open.

In Huelva, Hoki-Kobayashi will be determined to go one better after they surprised everyone by finishing runners-up to Mohammad Ahsan-Hendra Setiawan in Basel two years ago.

Jeremy, who is in charge of Japan’s mixed doubles department, will be out to help Yuta Watanabe-Arisa Higashino translate their brilliant form into a title-winning performance in Huelva.

Watanabe-Higashino were in four finals and triumphed in two of them – the Denmark and French Opens.

In Basel 2019, Watanabe-Higashino reached the semi-finals to become the first ever Japanese medallists in the mixed doubles competition at the world championships.