Just when you thought that the women’s doubles game was becoming too predictable, along comes Chen Qingchen-Jia Yifan to shatter that notion.
The Chinese pair broke an incredible year-long Japanese dominance in the BWF World Tour to land their first title in over a year at the recent All England and in the process blowing the Malaysia Open title race wide open.
AYAKA TAKAHASHI-MISAKI MATSUTOMO
Lest we forget, Japan’s former leading pair once reigned as world No. 1 for a period of 20 months following their Rio Olympics heroics delivering seven titles out of 10 world circuit finals.
Now playing second fiddle to Fukushima-Hirota, ‘Taka-Matsu’ showed glimpses of their brilliance by winning the Indonesia Masters title and then finishing as runners-up of the German Open. Yet, they are still arguably far from their mercurial best.
Their Malaysia Open title defence begins on Tuesday against China’s youthful pair of Xu Ya-Chen Lu.
CHEN QINGCHEN-JIA YIFAN
The smiling assassins proved to be a thorn in Japan’s stranglehold on the women’s doubles division.
Their momentous title win ended a 16-month drought starting from November 2017 with Qingchen-Yifan’s last taste of success on the BWF World Tour came in the Hong Kong Open.
With a rich vein of form, the tricky pair will look to avenge last year’s agonising Malaysia Open final defeat to Matsutomo-Takahashi.
Mammoth task awaits their Canadian opponents in the first round, Rachel Honderich-Kristen Tsai.
YUKI FUKUSHIMA-SAYAKA HIROTA
Installed as world number one in August last year, the dynamic pair reigned supreme with eight titles in the bag – completing their meteoric rise as Japan’s fast rising stars.
Fukushima-Hirota however, come to Axiata Arena hell-bent on exacting All England semi-final revenge on Qingchen-Yifan.
After successfully securing the Malaysia Masters crown in January, the most dominant women’s doubles pair of 2018 is out to cap the double in Bukit Jalil.
GREYSIA POLII-APRIYANI RAHAYU
One is 31 years old while the other is 20, but you can hardly tell the difference on court. Greysia Polii, the elder stateswoman has been reinvigorated through her partnership with junior shuttler, Apriyani Rahayu.
The gameplan blends Greysia’s 13-year experience with Apriyani’s blistering pace to a potent effect - clinching three BWF World Tour titles (India Open 2018 & 2019, Thailand Open 2018) and one BWF Superseries title (French Open 2017).
Having finished as runners-up in the Malaysia Masters early this year, the world number five duo look most likely to end Indonesia’s 52-year wait to land a Women’s Doubles Malaysia Open title.
Polii-Rahayu is scheduled to face unseeded American siblings, Ariel and Sydney Lee in the Malaysia Open curtain raiser.