With the SS Purple League (SSPL) 2016/17 taking a month’s break, it has given the top 6 teams vying for the trophy a chance to reorganize and rethink their strategies for the second phase of the league – the knockout stage.
All teams were also allowed to make five changes to the squad, and the top 6 teams –Muar BC, BU Dragons BC, Puchong United BC, Petaling Jaya BC, Ampang Jaya BC and Petaling BC have definitely taken full advantage in doing so in their pursuit for the title.
Puchong United in particular looked to have pulled off a major coup in their push for their first SSPL title. They have signed current World Number 1 women’s singles, Tai Tzu Ying from Chinese Taipei and managed to secure the services of Danish international, Christinna Pedersen.
Christinna is one half of the current World Number 2 women’s doubles pair AND current World Number 4 mixed doubles pair. The Danish’s acquisition might signal the end of national player, Goh Liu Ying’s SSPL campaign as the latter is still struggling with injuries and might not recover in time for the knockout rounds.
Petaling has also flexed their financial muscles by adding former world Number 1, Wang Yihan to their books. The highly-decorated Chinese international will be looking to be her team’s solution in the women’s singles category after less than impressive performances by national shuttler Lim Yin Fun and Indonesian Hera Desiana Rachmawati. Yin Fun and Hera Desiana both took turns representing Petaling in that category during the league phase.
Stage 1 winner, Muar is strengthened with the return of Korean international Lee Yong Dae as he will once again be reunited with his one-time partner, Lee Hyo Jung. This will be Yong Dae’s second appearance with the Johor side after helping them lift the trophy last season. Not only that, they have also added more firepower in the form of another former World Number 1 and Olympic gold medalist, Hendra Setiawan.
Debutants BU Dragons who themselves look to create history by lifting the cup in their first season has been boosted by the addition of Danish international, Emil Holst who was part of the Danish squad which won gold in last year’s Thomas Cup.
With their main women’s singles and Malaysia’s Number 1, Goh Jin Wei struggling with injuries of her own, BU Dragons has taken matters into their own hands by moving for up and coming Malaysian youngster Lee Ying Ying and World Number 14 American international, Zhang Beiwen to strengthen that department.
Petaling Jaya who started the league phase so well only to falter slightly towards the end has bolstered their squad with a pair of experienced doubles specialists in the form of Korean internationals, Shin Baek Cheol and Kim Sa Rang while also adding Indian up and coming youngster, Harsheel Dani to their roster.
“We have lost key players for the finals so it is important that we replace them with players of similar quality. It is vital that we strategize and make the right moves because we hope the players that we bring in will boost our chances of winning the trophy,” said Petaling Jaya’s manager, Yeoh Kay Lun when contacted.
Meanwhile, Ampang Jaya has been modest with their spending but managed to secure the services of men’s singles specialists, Indian international Ajay Jayaram who is ranked 19 in the world currently and Vietnamese international, Nguyen Tien Minh ranked 42.
The final stage will be played at the Arena of Stars, Resorts World Genting from February 9 to 12. The top 6 teams from Stage 1 will fight for a chance to lift the SSPL trophy while the bottom 4 teams will play each other in playoff matches to determine their final positions.